The holiday shopping season is in full force, making optimized online, mobile and in-store customer experiences a priority for retailers.
Since shoppers will be browsing and buying via mobile more than ever before, factors such as loading speed, site organization and relevant features are vital to mobile engagement and overall purchase rates.
Joshua Bixby, President of Strangeloop, a mobile and web site optimization solution provider, shared key findings from company research and best practices for retailers eager to drive mobile purchases beyond the initial surge of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Retail TouchPoints (RTP): How do you think the mobile-empowered shopper will effect the 2011 holiday shopping season?
Joshua Bixby: Many of our retail customers are obtaining 8% to 15% of their sites’ page views from mobile devices, according to our research. Moreover, 7% of their total sales come from mobile. Though 7% isn’t the dominant percentage, we are seeing massive growth in mobile access among our customers. For example, one of our clients made only 50 cents out of every $100 spent via mobile in September 2010. This year, that amount has grown to $7 for every $100 spent, which is very significant. Mobile is making a meaningful difference for that client. To that end, I think 2012 will be a paramount year for mobile, making it a top consideration for retailers.
RTP: Why do you think this sudden jump in mobile purchase rates occurred?
Bixby: In terms of mobile devices, one of the things that has really changed the industry is the iPad. It’s a remarkable device and has really made an impact in terms of purchase rates. Within 18 months, its penetration has boosted to approximately 40 million sold worldwide. Many of the retailers whose sites we track indicate their web/online storefronts receive twice as much traffic from iPad users versus iPhone subscribers. Another trend we have to recognize is that 2011 was the year in which more smartphones than what I like to call “dumb phones” were purchased around the world.
Now customers have access to Internet capabilities easily and can complete purchases away from home, if they so desire. We’ve reached the mobile tipping point where shoppers have the device and the network to participate in mobile shopping and commerce from any location.
RTP: Are there any particular trends Strangeloop has noticed regarding mobile shopping behaviors?
Bixby: First and foremost, it’s clear that retailers invest in mobile in a variety of ways. Some may have an app, while others focus on the m-Commerce site. However, a significant trend we’ve noticed is that many consumers are leaving the mobile optimized site, especially with iPads, to enter the full version of the web site. In fact, our research indicates that if given the choice, 32% of customers would view the full site rather than the mobile site on their mobile devices.
I think we have a community of online buyers that is more tech-savvy and wants increased functionality; these shoppers get turned off when mobile optimized sites don’t have recommendation engines or other features they rely on while shopping via web. I hypothesize that it’s because we have a more sophisticated buyer that expects that extremely rich experience.
We’ve noticed that site load time also is imperative. Aberdeen Group research indicates that even a one-second delay on page load time can have a significant impact on engagement, conversion rates and, of course, revenue.
RTP: Could this trend also be attributed to the growth of tablets and their larger screens versus those on smartphones? Or is it because retailers are unclear of how to optimize their mobile sites with the best features for their shoppers?
Bixby: The larger screen definitely can attribute to this behavior. This is evident when comparing the tablet and smartphone experience, but also in comparing different smartphone models. For example, Androids have significantly larger screens than the iPhone. In addition, some retailers are not certain about how to create a mobile experience that is memorable.
One of the biggest challenges hindering adoption in the mobile world today is the inability to measure mobile performance. Unless there’s a baseline to which retailers can compare performance and measure results, it’s very difficult for them to enhance the experience and be fully successful.
RTP: What are some general best practices to ensure mobile sites can handle an influx of traffic as well as enhance the overall experience?
Bixby: There are three vital areas:
– Retailers must ensure the full site experience is available to shoppers, so visitors can decide whether they’d like to view the mobile site or the full site. Retailers often think they know what their users want, so they don’t provide options. But it’s very important that merchants provide shoppers with a choice regarding the overall site experience.
– Make sure you compress your data, especially within the mobile site, so it’s easier for shoppers to receive information quickly. Nothing is more irritating for time-starved shoppers than a slow-moving mobile site.
– Consider your mobile shoppers when you think about tapping into Flash. Flash doesn’t translate to these devices, hindering customers from seeing product videos or mobile advertisements. Prevent shopper frustration by steering clear of flash technology on mobile.
As president of Strangeloop, Joshua Bixby defines the company’s strategic marketing and product direction. Joshua has more than 10 years of experience in the technology industry. He co-founded and served as president and chief executive officer of IronPoint Technology, helping lead the company to a successful acquisition by The Active Network in 2006.