Mobile conversion is increasing, the quality of mobile experiences is not

Some technological trends

Social media is changing the world (and I recently shared some thoughts here) but, despite the time we spend on the supercomputers in our pockets, the quality of the experiences we see there isn’t as good as it could be.

In the past few years, smartphone adoption has increased in penetration by 5-10% - and we’re spending more time on mobile, with the average American adult spending 2 hours and 51 minutes per day on mobile.

Amazon is dominating the digital commerce space - with the Slice Intelligence analysis showing that the web giant accounts for 43% of all online retail sales in US in 2016. What’s so interesting is the speed of purchase - a shopper can go from desire to purchase in a matter of seconds and - and if they have turned on that option - one click.

Brands find it hard to compete - faced with skyrocketing traffic, steep competition and a rapidly shifting landscape of trends, patterns and needs.

 

The existing mobile commerce experience

As mobile commerce continues its meteoric rise, it’s easy to see the common elements - and the key sticking points - in the average experience.

1. Home page

Home pages can be very political - with different teams within a brand keen to promote their messages and content - and they can end up pushing products off the page. Home pages are often pretty generic, as brands focus on a broad reach, rather than tailored personalizations.

2. Search

Search is usually a prominent, prioritized feature - and a core part of the mobile commerce experience.

However, whether search is useful, depends on a user’s goal. If the visitor has a specific need (“I know what I want and I want it now”), search can help them get there. If a visitor is there to explore, on the hunt for inspiration without a specific goal in mind, then what are they going to search for? People get frustrated if they can’t find what they’re looking for, but equally disengage if pushed in a specific direction when this is not what they want.

3. The 'hamburger' menu

These, somewhat contentious, UX elements usually hide the mess of multiple categories, and a host of features that no one wants to lose, but no one wants to call attention to either.

4. Log in

While these are useful for VIPs, and shoppers who are truly loyal to the brand, they’re a huge blocker for everyone else - who just want to buy as quickly as possible and leave (probably while muttering “please let me buy as a guest and don’t collect any of my data: I’m sure you have it all already…”).

5. Categories

Often, mobile commerce sites prioritize granular filter modules - which (again) assume the visitor is after something specific, and prevents quick exposure to products.

6. Product detail pages

You might think these are full of information - every bit as important as the rest, but this isn’t the case.  Actually, there are different layers of information which aren’t prioritized correctly.

Another sticking point with product detail pages is that there’s often no way to keep visitors engaged if the product (or the price) isn’t what they were after - and a dead end like this can increase bounce rates.

Designcraft in general

Users commonly find mobile web experiences less usable than desktop or native apps - and trust the experience less, because it is less polished and doesn’t feel safe.

Mobile experiences aren’t as commonly optimized for multiple browsers as desktop, or for multiple display sizes and mobile operating systems - resulting in inconsistencies across elements between browsers, and between desktop and mobile.

 

What should brands be aware of?

The portion of the screen available on mobile is tiny: brands need to prioritize accordingly, and get rid of everything that’s irrelevant (helping visitors stay focused, avoiding distraction and preventing the experience from being daunting).

Mobile shopping is a time-saver - if an experience doesn’t save the visitor time, it isn’t going to make them happy.

Visitors like help when they’re looking for something specific - and will ask for it if they need it. If they don’t need guidance, they don’t want it.

Being exposed to a richer variety of products increases visitor satisfaction: getting customers to the products quickly increases engagement. Shoppers enjoy the discovery phase better in-store compared to online because they get immediate exposure to the catalog - this needs to be translated into the mobile experience.

Finally, businesses - where possible - shouldn’t wait for their mobile experiences to get obsolete. Iterating, and focusing on delightful experiences can help to build solid relationships with mobile visitors, and expand this relationships across multiple channels.