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6 Ways to Improve Smartphone Retail Pages

By Will Gillingham

IMRG have spent years tracking retail payments split by device and watching the humble smartphone grow in stature. For some time firmly in the shadow of the tablet, the smartphone has since enjoyed a mass acclimatisation of shoppers, and, earlier this year, we watched with bated breath as the device attained what was once an unthinkable milestone: it became the statistical device of choice (amassing 40.4% of sales revenue in the period Nov 2018 – Jan 2019, beating out desktop by a sturdy 0.7%).

In the period Feb – Apr 2019, smartphone extended its dominion, accounting for 41.6% of sales revenue to desktop’s lowly 38.8% (while tablet sales lagged in the contest, recording just 19.6%). The line-of-best-fit paints a bright future for the smartphone as a retail device, and it would be a good idea for retailers to muster their resources and react in kind, optimising their webpages and user experiences on smartphone to eke out its fullest potential. But just what comprises smartphone best practice?

We reached out to experts in the IMRG community who specialise in retail optimisation and asked them to lend their smartphone knowledge to this piece. Here’s what they had to say.

Smartphones at a glance

Smartphones aren’t a perfect medium. They have limited screen space, and what they do have is half-covered by a keyboard when the user wants to search for anything. Typing itself is plagued by that fickle aid, autocorrect, and there are always push notifications contending for attention.

However, people spend, on average, more than 3 hours per day on their phones. They’re able to be used almost anywhere, their biometric functionality can considerably quicken the checkout process, and, as already mentioned, they’re the leading device for bringing in sales revenue.

This is described by Brendan Murray, Content Marketing Manager at Akeneo, who suggests there are still steps to be taken by retailers looking to truly optimise their smartphone presence.

Murray: ‘Commerce is going mobile. Increasingly, B2B and B2C buyers alike are picking up their smartphones when researching or even making purchases — according to recent research, mobile search will generate 27.8 billion more queries than desktop search by the end of this year.

‘Many companies are missing the mark when it comes to mobile experiences, however, and this can have disastrous consequences. The vast majority (90%) of customers say they have had poor experience seeking customer support on mobile, and once they’ve had that poor experience, more than half (52%) say are less likely to engage with the company as a result.

‘To ensure your mobile commerce initiatives connect with customers and lead to sales, it’s crucial to ensure you’re presenting accurate, consistent product information in the proper context for mobile users.’

Sarah MacDonald, Northern EMEA Regional Marketing Manager at Magento, an Adobe company, has a similar view to Murray, referencing that despite their success as a revenue channel, mobile sites actually have the lowest conversion rate.

Macdonald: “Get mobile right” is undoubtedly near the top of every ecommerce business’s priority list. Forrester found that, while mobile sites get the highest percentage of traffic (49%), they have the lowest conversion rate at just 1.7%. In comparison, desktop enjoys a conversion rate of over double that amount, with 51% of smartphone users stating they find it easier to buy on desktops.

‘It’s not hard to see why mobile conversion is a challenge – if a site isn’t geared to function correctly on mobile devices, transitions between pages will be slow, menus will be difficult to scroll and visual content won’t adapt to the screen, resulting in an altogether clunky web store. As mobile influence over digital commerce continues to grow, so have expectations of on-the-go consumers who demand lighting fast, app-like browsing experiences.

‘In a society where consumers expect a seamless shopping experience, retailers cannot afford to have a sub-par mobile strategy. The demand for an improved buying journey on mobile is not exclusive to B2C. Mobile browsing & researching influences 40% of revenue in leading B2B organisations – buyers browse a vendor’s website while traveling or working on the go. So, B2B merchants must also increase their focus on mobile if they want to remain competitive.’

It almost seems like an anomaly: how something so unrefined can shrug off its ‘clunky-ness’ to draw in a flood of shoppers; how the device with the lowest conversion rate can nevertheless garner the largest share of sales revenue. Imagine how wide the door would swing if its hinges were to be oiled.

Fortunately, there are swathes of tips out there which we’ve wrangled up below; a collection of quick-fixes for you to pluck from this page, plug into your strategy, and watch as your conversion bolsters. Let’s get to it.

Online shopping

Understand how your customers use smartphones

Before getting to the optimisation tips proper, the first piece of advice is in understanding at what point in the purchase journey shoppers are actually looking at their phones. Are they doing a bit of research during the commute? Or locating their nearest store? Perhaps they’re doing research on their phones whilst in a store.

Whatever the case, how your shoppers are using their phones should influence the subsequent manner in which you optimise your smartphone presence, and this is elaborated upon by Olaf Dunn, Technical Consultant at Attraqt.

Dunn: Rather than viewing mobile optimisation as one overarching goal, it’s much more effective to step back and assess the impact you are making on micro-moments along the customer journey. Many great strategies can be applied to help retailers improve the display of their products on mobile, but each business and each mobile customer is unique, and brands should really start the process by looking at the fundamentals of why their customers are interacting with mobiles versus desktops in the first place.

‘For example, some of your customers might turn to mobile purely for product research, whereas others may use mobile to seek directions to your local brick-and-mortar store in order to interact with an item; try it on, look at it in situ and so on. Other shoppers may instead choose to use mobile to answer “How to” questions about how a particular product is used or they may want to simply make a quick purchase.

‘By establishing these smartphone customer use cases, brands can get to the heart of what individual shopper intent and needs are on mobile versus desktop. What brought them there? How do they behave along the navigation path? Where was the break point between inspiration, discovery and purchase?  Mobile optimisation should begin by assessing and responding to these moments in order to make any impact on conversions. By getting to grips with data insights for each customer to better understand intent and behaviour, you are in a much better position to orchestrate mobile experiences that respond to individual shopping moments.’

In support of this view is Sam Kellett, Head of Content at Exponea, who focusses on the flexibility of mobile as a need for omnichannel implementation.

Kellett: The most important thing to keep in mind is that mobile is just one step in your overall strategy. Customers browse on mobile. They research on mobile. But mobile conversion rates are about half that of desktop.

‘Does that mean we’re doing mobile wrong? Maybe, but hold the phone: a quick peek into the attribution of sales reveals it takes multiple steps for most users to get to that purchase. Maybe most aren’t buying on mobile, but they might be planning to buy from you somewhere else.

‘The way to win is to make sure your customers have a seamless experience switching from one device to another. You need to create an omni-channel experience that remains consistent, regardless of the channel the customer is using. If they start their journey on mobile and add something to their cart, there needs to be an easy way for them to complete that purchase on desktop.’

Smartphones could realistically be used at any stage of the customer journey, and this may well differ from brand to brand. Simply discovering where your customers switch to smartphone the most may lead to a refinement of certain areas of the smartphone experience.

However, there are also universal tips which, by and large, will benefit any retail experience on a smartphone, and for those retailers looking to boost their small-screen showing, any and all of the following may usher you into greater revenue.

Shopper

Speed up loading times

Nobody likes waiting for a webpage to load, least of all smartphone users. Both eShopWorld and Search Laboratory agree that if a page takes any longer than 3 seconds to load, a shopper is likely to bounce there and then. Here are some ways to speed up page loading times on mobile:

Scott Lindsay, Head of Marketing EMEA, eShopWorld: Users will abandon a page if it loads too slowly (more than 3 seconds), so page performance has become a critical success factor. Some of the ways to increase speed include using a mobile-optimised theme or design, optimising images so they’re not too big, and using Google’s best practices for increasing mobile page speed.’

Sebastian Dziubek, Head of Technical and Daniel Jones, Conversion Optimisation Manager, Search Laboratory: ‘Fast page speed is important on every device, but more so on mobile: content needs to be loaded within one to three seconds if you are to reduce bounce rate. Removing unnecessary JavaScript or plugins, adapting content, adapting the layout, removing pop ups and compressing images are a few ways you can improve loading times.’

And Jessica Harding, Online Marketing Coordinator, FACT-Finder goes one step further in relation to pop-ups, and suggests they are almost entirely eviscerated from the mobile experience: ‘Limit all unnecessary distractions, which can make shopping on mobile more of a hassle than its worth. Remove pop-ups and other unnecessary large ads.’

Indeed, page speed is a critical element of the mobile experience. But while oversized images are to be avoided where possible, retailers should take care not to fall onto the other side of the scale and feature pictures which are too small.

Timer

Use large imagery

Imagery which has been designed for a desktop may become illegible when scaling for a phone, becoming either too small, or too pixelated, to decipher. It’s for this reason that James Whittaker, Senior UX Designer, Loqate - a GBG Solution, suggests that not only should imagery be designed with phones in mind, but that when in doubt, go big.

Whittaker: ‘Large high-quality imagery designed around mobile sizes is a key differentiator. Your mobile users want to see what they are buying in detail so allow them to zoom and see product images full screen. Keep your buttons, input forms and text at a good legible size for mobile, and if in doubt, go larger than you think.’

Jessica Harding of FACT-Finder is in agreement: Make sure that your product images are formatted in such a way that they don't become grainy or too small to see on a mobile device. Additionally, all buttons should be adapted for mobile - not too big, and not too small where visitors have to struggle to zoom in or out.

‘With smaller screens, customers are presented with fewer products when searching for an item. As such, it is crucial that the results shown to them are relevant and high-quality. Use ranking rules to ensure that your star products are seen first. You have less of a chance to make a good impression, so make it count.’

A simple thought, perhaps, but a crucial one: customers want to see the products they’re buying. Give them their best experience in this manner, and you may see your smartphone conversion figures begin to creep up.

Large picture

Prevent scrolling

An economic usage of words on a desktop may be the opposite on a smartphone. If users are having to scroll past reams of text to locate whatever it is they’re looking for, they may be apt to lose interest in your site.

This is suggested by Dziubek and Jones: ‘Content will need to be optimised for the mobile experience. What seems like short snippets on desktop may equate to lengthy pages on mobile. You may need to redesign the page to include content without having a long scroll, or the content itself may need to be adapted.’

And James Whittaker of Loqate, a GBG solution goes one step further by suggesting retailers should be considering the minimum amount of text required to put their point across when it comes to smartphone optimisation: Don’t be afraid to cram all your content in the top of the page: scrolling isn’t a concern here. Think about the minimum amount of information you need to show per page; this doesn’t have to match your desktop experience.’

Smartphone users, by and large, want clarity throughout the retail experience, and to get to wherever they’re going with a good deal of rapidity. And nowhere is this more necessary than the checkout.

Looking at phone

Strip the checkout

The mobile checkout should be structured for speed. While a desktop can harbour adverts, pop-ups, and multiple form fields (within reason) without too much interruption to the user, the smartphone is a different playing field.

Indeed, according to John Gessau. Director, Product Management at ACI Worldwide, the in-transit shopper has no time to be bottlenecked at the checkout: ‘When consumers are on the go, they need speed and simplicity – perhaps even more so than when using other channels. Merchants must make sure their mobile checkout screens are easy to navigate, and the process is short and clear. It is also important to consider screen size and avoid adding any extra options to the mobile checkout that might deter or distract the customer from completing the sale. Where possible, merchants should also look to enable tools such as one-click checkout options for regular customers, for the ultimate in fast, simple mobile payments.’

Benoit Soucaret, Creative Director, LiveArea EMEA, sees the answer to a short and clear checkout as one which only requires input which is absolutely essential: ‘Minimising text input should be a priority at checkout. If you’ve ever tried to enter your credit card details online, only for something to go wrong, you’ll know how annoying this can be and how it can affect conversion. Typing is slower on a mobile than desktop, and requires an on-screen keyboard, which makes the viewable screen half as big. Cut out input that isn’t absolutely essential. Break up digital forms into short pages, with clear ‘next’ buttons, so that visitors don’t have to scroll.’

And Scott Lindsay of eShopWorld builds on this idea, going so far as to say it’s possible to optimise a checkout so that a user only needs to tap their screen fewer than ten times: Some sites have as many as 25 taps in the checkout – with a bit of critical thinking, this number can be reduced to single digits. For example, at checkout, it is unnecessary to capture the person’s appellation or title (Mr, Ms, Dr) - as is needing to obtain their date of birth for a guest check out. Streamline the checkout, and right size the number of pages, autofill email domains, make sure emails are only captured once (some sites require emails to be added twice for confirmation) and autofill addresses wherever possible – these simple steps will all decrease taps and increase conversion.

Make payments simple and seamless. Anywhere numbers need to be input (phone number, credit cards), make sure to use a numerical keyboard. It is good idea to have mobile specific express payment options such as Apple Pay/Android Pay. Most importantly, make sure that no cookies/feedback boxes block anything important on the page such as ‘add to cart’ button as users will often get frustrated and abandon.’

The mobile checkout should be devoid of flair. All the user is looking for is the fastest route to the buy button, and the retailer should facilitate as best they can, limiting both form fields and checkout stages to their most minute (but functional) state. And if, for whatever reason, a handful of checkout stages are still present? Well, then a good thing to do is to include a progress bar.

Phone checkout

Include a progress bar at the checkout

A progress bar at the checkout is a simple yet effective tool. It can give those time-conscious buyers a rough estimation of how long the checkout will take, as well as psychologically ushering a buyer through by rewarding them with completed progress steps.

This is mentioned by Shayne Burgess of AsiaPay: ‘Customers like to keep track of their payment progress. By giving them an insight in advance on how to complete their purchase, retailers can dissuade customers from losing interest or abandoning their shopping cart. Retailers should provide a progress bar or page indicator—1 of 4 pages, for example, to quantify the steps made at the end part of the payment process.’

Benoit Soucaret of LiveArea EMEA is in agreement, and even suggests a method to eliminate the stages of the checkout altogether: ‘Reduce the number of pages or checkout steps – make it a single step if possible. Display progress through the checkout, with a progress bar or step numbers. Offer a ‘guest checkout’, so users don’t have to sign up. Allow shoppers to used saved payment options and digital wallets. In one study from Big Commerce, conversions tripled when digital wallet payment was available.’

And that’s the list: a few small but pertinent tips for those retailers looking to optimise for a device which is now very much a core part of the modern-day shopping experience.

Steps

In Summary

If smartphones weren’t already inherent to retail, their trend-line seems to indicate that retail will soon be inconceivable without the smartphone element. And yet there are still many ways in which retailers can optimise their smartphone presence to match the par which today’s shoppers have come to expect.

These aren’t strategic overhauls; they’re UX tweaks which, while making a small impact to the appearance of the website on a smartphone, could leave a lasting impression on the passing customer. Things like legible imagery, rapid page loading times, and a wind-tunnel checkout are how moving shoppers expect to be greeted by the small-screen retailer.

It’s a fascinating cement for retail, this device in the pocket which could inform anything from preliminary research to the sale itself. How it further manifests its retail presence in the future is yet to be seen, but one thing is for certain: manifest, it shall.

For further insight into what converts and what doesn’t, be sure to check out the IMRG Data Webinars, where we unpack our newest research and discuss the findings.

Will Gillingham, Content Manager, IMRG

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