Conversion Optimisation for Mobile Sites

Endless Gain

Growth in mobile eCommerce is booming. You may be profiting from it already or you are considering investing more in providing an optimised mobile shopping experience for your customers.

If you are in the latter category, here are a few interesting statistics from the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) that may help you to decide:

  • Shoppers using mobile devices account for 45% of all eCommerce traffic in the UK
  • Sales made via a smartphone grow 97% year-on-year (IMRG-Capgemini)
  • A record 32% of all mobile-retail sales were made from a smartphone in November 2015.

And, Google says more searches take place on mobile devices than on computers (in 10 countries, including the US and Japan). But, the conversion rate for smartphones is lower (hovering around 1%) than for tablets (around 2.5%).

Conversion by computers [laptops and desktops] is higher, approaching 3%. (Various sources suggest similar numbers, for example, Monetate, Wired, Mobify, and Forrester.)

Ofcom – points of interest (Ofcom 2015 Communications Market Report)

  • Smartphones overtake laptops as UK internet users’ number one device
  • We’re spending two hours online on our smartphones every day; twice as long as laptops and PCs
  • Superfast 4G is helping change the way we shop, bank, watch TV and communicate

Mobile is, therefore, significant for eCommerce. And, it’s logical that people like to (or want to) shop in this way. But, humans are creatures of habit, which helps the likes of established brands such as Amazon and eBay when it comes to Internet-based shopping.

For example, we’ll bookmark the pages on our preferred mobile browser or download the mobile app and away we go. Some of us may not even bother to look to Google for alternative suggestions because we trust certain websites to give us what we are looking for.

And that’s where you need to be with your online business—providing a tried and trusted, reliable, and a great user experience (UX) that in turn gives you a high rate of conversion, making your company more money.

Are there any benchmarks to follow for mobile eCommerce?

Well, according to Econsultancy, “Retailers that excel at mobile retail include House of Fraser, Screwfix, Burberry and John Lewis… At the other end of the scale, brands such as F. Hinds and Miu offer a poor mobile experience…”

You’ll clearly want to excel too; you will find there is a lot to consider, though.

As a website owner, you have no option but to provide an adequate mobile UX. In a nutshell, it must be engaging and it must encourage your visitors to buy from you rather than your competition.

Take note of this: there is a distinct lack of tolerance to poor UX among mobile users! According to Global E-Commerce Facts, slow websites result in 43% of visitors not returning and 40% of them going to a competitor’s website instead.

This is where a conversion optimisation specialist can help, because they will test the efficacy of your website, remove any obstacles, and enable you to convert more users into customers.

What are your options for mobile?

So, let’s assume you are on board with investing seriously in mobile. Keeping it simple, there tend to be three options to choose from for producing your mobile website:

1) Adaptive design (a website that has various templates each one needing a dedicated URL to suit each device—a bit old school by now)

2) Responsive design (a single website that adapts automatically to the device the customer is using and has a single URL. Google favours this single URL-same html approach—but that should not be your only driver for opting for this approach)

3) Native apps.

Here are some thoughts on each.

1. Adaptive Mobile Design


  • The user experience (UX) should be good because the website will have various versions that are optimised for specific mobile devices.
  • Each mobile version will offer speed of loading on each specific mobile device.
  • Local searching for mobile optimised websites is good and you have a better chance to rank.
  • Each website provides immediate access—no apps to download.


  • You (and your customers) have to manage several web addresses. OK, they can save different ones to their favourites, which make it a bit easier. Otherwise, they’ll have to click on one and then be redirected to the other—TIME WASTING and not what they or you want. And, don’t forget the extra search engine optimisation need for each website.
  • You have to maintain several websites.
  • You need different approaches for navigation—touchscreen and keyboard—that provide optimal UX.
  • Cost—more expensive than responsive.

2. Responsive


  • It’s a single website that fits all devices (in theory, anyway), so it should be easier to manage and in theory be a lot easier to market (no need for separate campaigns, etc.).
  • Only one web address (URL), so no need for redirections, which should be helpful with slower connections.
  • You can handle SEO as a single project and there is no need for specific content for mobile devices.
  • No need for extra marketing on your mobile website.
  • It’s one website, so it should be more cost-effective.


  • Your users may not find a responsive website as fluid as it should be. You really have to think long and hard about how the information they want and what you want them to see is served up otherwise you won’t successfully convert them from users into customers.
  • Responsive web design is still in a period of bedding in. Yes. It’s been around for a few years but there are still technical issues to overcome. For example, old browsers, speed of loading, full loading, bloat are things to consider. (It’s important to optimise images, etc., when using responsive design because slow Internet connections will kill your users’ interest and engagement.)
  • We are doubtful about whether having a single user interface is ideal. Think about it. Can a smartphone focused interface work across a desktop or tablet PC (well, at a pinch it might just work on the latter)? The problem is trying to satisfy all your users whether they are at the desktop or mobile, so in reality a responsive design approach really isn’t a mobile optimisation strategy. It doesn’t allow you to lead the customer, it just allows you to respond.

So, please don’t expect Endless Gain to recommend responsive design as the single, ultimate solution. It’s just one of many others! What we are more focused on is ensuring you have a proper mobile optimisation plan that accounts for all mobile visitor behaviour.

3. Native apps


  • Smartphone users are familiar with downloading and using mobile apps. For example, mobile apps account for more than half (52%) of all time spent on digital media (comScore); smartphone users spent 89% of their mobile media time using mobile apps (Neilsen); 42% of all mobile sales generated by the leading 500 merchants came from mobile apps (Internet Retailer). This would indicate that native apps offer better UX than any other mobile optimisation solution.
  • Apps may operate even without internet connection, so your information is accessible all of the time. And, apps tend to load quickly (assuming your coder knows what they are doing).
  • Mobile apps with touch screen navigation allow a wide horizon for development. The limit is just your imagination (and maybe the skills of your app provider).
  • Once the app is downloaded and installed on a device, your logo is visible all of the time and encourages users to dive in whenever they are looking for something to buy. That’s free advertising for you.


  • You need an app built for each operating system—Android, Apple iOS, and Windows – to avoid alienating mobile users and enabling more conversions (some might argue that iOS is more important than other OSs because iPhone users tend to be wealthier, with many Android users being less well off (as indicated by the sale of low-end devices that has enabled the platform to dominate the mobile space), whereas Windows penetration is slow. According to IDC (2015, Q2), worldwide OS market share is Android 82.8%, iOS 13.9%, and Windows 2.6% (Blackberry 0.3% and others 0.4%).
  • If you make changes to the app, you will have to submit them to the various app stores for approval, which can take several weeks. But, don’t expect every user to update the app every time you introduce a change.
  • Cost! Developing native apps can be expensive (running into the hundreds of thousands of pounds, depending on complexity, etc.).
  • You may need to engage a mobile marketing professional to get the word out; more cost!

So, those are your current choices. Regardless of what you decide, for conversion optimisation, the end game is the same—and that’s to help you turn more of your mobile users into customers.

And, if you don’t want to leak money, you need to be prepared for some extensive research, hypothesising, and heavy-duty testing before you’ll find the optimal solution to improve your conversions. But, that effort will be worth it.

No substitute for speed and clarity

Website speed is extremely important for eCommerce in general—and it’s paramount for effective mobile websites because the common belief is that smartphones are mainly a research tool and the purchasing takes place using a tablet PC, laptop, or desktop at a later time.

According to Kissmetrics, “If an eCommerce site is making [US] $100,000 per day, a one-second page delay could potentially cost you [US] $2.5 million in lost sales every year.” And, it could be the speed or lack of it that dictates whether the person using their smartphone to view your website becomes a customer using that mobile device.

And what your mobile user sees is critical. Clearly, the size of the screen dictates what you can display—even with the growth in phablets (5-inch plus screens), which has doubled and has nearly 14% of market share (Nielsen)—you need to be sure that the UX is optimal for converting customers.

That means the landing page has to be effective in delivering a compelling visual and written message that captivates the user. The message needs to convince that the product displayed meets the customers’ need and there is nothing to distract them from buying it.

Furthermore, you want them to land on a relevant page with as few as distractions as possible between viewing the product and buying it (and that includes showing alternatives and complementary products.

It’s a great idea in theory, but you need to test the impact of how these distractions affect buying decisions).

Make it easy for your customers

Importantly, you don’t want your potential customers landing on your homepage where they’d have to start their search again. That would be bad enough when they are sitting comfortably at a table, but when standing up or walking holding their smartphone? How would you feel?

So, a well designed and constructed landing page is extremely important in holding user attention and encouraging engagement.

From the landing page, I want to concentrate on two other areas that need testing. This may seem obvious, but don’t underestimate the importance of navigation and in-site search.

I’d like to tackle navigation in two parts. First, there is the navigation needed to guide the user through reading all about your product, to selecting it through to buying it.

For mobile, this has to be super slick and simple. Remember they are holding the device in one hand and dabbing at it with a finger from the other hand—unless of course they are particularly deft and do it all with one hand!

Every step has to be relevant and so don’t think about introducing a load of options that could put them off. And, keep in mind that those mobile keypads are in simple terms generally awful to use. Test this exhaustively until it runs as smoothly as possible.

Then there is the navigation that gets them around the rest of the mobile site. You want them to easily view other items, whether products, services, guides, store locations, opening times, and so on.

This needs to be one-finger friendly too and it should take them directly to what they are looking for. Again test it and optimise the UX to ensure that the customers get what they need. Even the navigation aids need testing, whether they are buttons, drop-down menus, etc.

If testing isn’t thorough and an optimum solution found, you will create a poor UX for your customer.

In-site searching

Google and others cracked web searching. They use clever algorithms to serve up information and suggest appropriate websites to look at—even when you misspell what you’re looking for.

So, here’s a question for you: shouldn’t your in-site search engine be as good as Google?

Here’s a little in-site search test we ran for babycare products. We found some surprising results! The website—both mobile and desktop versions—refused to accept babycare and defaulted to babycat. Interesting!

Meeting the needs of mobile users

Mobile users have different needs than desktop users. So, suffice to say they want/need information in easy to read, understandable portions that are served up quickly.

They can be impulsive buyers and various experts have published statistics that they spend more per purchase than desktop users. So you owe it yourself to be sure that your in-site search works and takes your users quickly to what they are looking for.

Here’s something that may compel you into optimising your in-site search. According to recent research presented in the Barclays report “The Future of M-Commerce”:

  • Sales made by mobile devices are set to reach around £53.6 billion by 2024, which would equate to 13.7% of all retail spend in that year.
  • By 2024 mobile-influenced spending is predicted to reach £112 billion, meaning that almost half of all retail sales will involve a mobile device.
  • Over half of mobile shoppers (57.7%) browse or research products at least once a week using mobile devices, and 21.5% purchase goods.

If that doesn’t convince you that you need to optimise the mobile version of your website, whether it’s html-based or an app, then nothing will. Again, you must focus on making it simple and clean from enquiry to pressing the buy call-to-action button and completing the checkout transaction.

Optimise the eCommerce experience across all devices

Bear in mind that your customers might use multiple devices and so if they start shopping on a smartphone and then switch to a tablet or a laptop, it is a good idea that what’s in the shopping basket is replicated across them all from a single source of data. This is known as a persistent shopping cart or basket.

You’re not looking for duplicated data here and the items need to remain in the basket until they are bought or deleted. The latter is very important for your customers because they won’t want to start all over again.

Indeed, performance marketing technology firm, Criteo, reckons, “Cross-device usage is now enormous. Cross-device purchasing powers 45% of eCommerce transactions”. So, that supports those who say users/customers may use their phones as research tools and then go over to other devices to make the actual purchase.

Again, the efficacy of this will need testing thoroughly so that the information shared among the various devices is single source, accurate, and a true representation of what the customer has selected.

Here’s an example of a test run on the Argos site. The item was found using the Argos mobile app and selected. Then I signed out of the mobile app and opened up the Argos webstore on a laptop, signed in, and found the item in my shopping basket. Can you emulate this or do better?

So, mobile commerce provides a great opportunity to make more money from your website. Some companies are already doing a lot better at it than others.

But, that should encourage you to either improve your existing mobile offering or embark on mobile commerce deployment. You just have to be sure that it will work from the off, as mobile users are unforgiving and their lack of tolerance will see them leave your website—and go to your competitor.

Therefore, test everything independently, determine the solution, optimise it, and you’ll convert more visitors into mobile commerce customers.