Mobile search and buying continue to grow as the chosen means for consumers’ online shopping, with the market set to reach an estimated US$218 billion in 2019.
By 2021, 72.9 percent of online purchases will be made on a mobile device, eMarketer has estimated. If you factor in the Millennial and Generation Z demographics, virtually all sales soon will be mobile-generated.
Online retailers are seeing the writing on the wall: More than half of retailers participating in a recent survey planned to invest in mobile, and nearly two-thirds forecast that it positively would impact their online revenue in 2019.
New sites have some advantage since they are designing, from the beginning, for a mobile-centric world. However, all sites can upgrade to achieve a mobile-friendly presence, and there are ways to do it without straining the budget. To survive over the next few years, a powerful mobile-ready site is a must for any retailer.
Capturing mobile customers requires a combination of shrewd site design paired with marketing techniques aimed at engaging customers and moving them to conversion. Keep in mind: Mobile is a communication channel. Getting a customer to buy still requires doing all the other practices right — like product mix, marketing, social media community building, and incentives to encourage conversion.
Get Mobile Smart and Add Customer Love
1. Modernize your website for mobile sales. Sites that were designed specifically for the desktop cannot support mobile shopping effectively. To get into the mobile game, you have to upgrade your site to capture sales you no doubt are losing if you’re operating a non-mobile site. Here are the two dominant design choices:
- Adaptive templates are designed for a specific set of screens, typically cellphones, tablets and laptops. The site will detect the type of device a mobile shopper is using and serve up the format for that device. Regardless of device, the shopper will see a screen well adapted for viewing. A key benefit of this format is that it loads significantly faster than the other option, a responsive template.
Load speeds for an adaptive format can be extremely fast, based on Yahoo Small Business studies of actual sites. That gives millennial buyers, for example, the pace they demand in order to have a satisfying site experience. Of course, site speed is also one of the factors Google uses to determine search ranking, so having a fast-loading site could help you attract, as well as keep, more new customers. Entrepreneurs developing a new site will gain a competitive edge by starting with an adaptive template.
- Responsive templates do not have a pre-set selection of screens, and literally respond to the type of device they see a shopper using. They respond to screen size and reconfigure the site layout based on those dimensions. A lot of modern, beautiful mobile sites use responsive templates, but they may be paying a speed penalty versus adaptive sites.
2. Architect the site for the mobile user. Google takes no prisoners when it comes to mobile. Google will not send mobile users to a site that is not mobile-ready. Google search also will penalize slow-to-load sites, so your site runs the risk of being invisible and losing at least half of your potential business if you are less than mobile-ready.
The right template gets you started. Now think about the screen orientation a shopper sees. A must-have for mobile is a vertical architecture. Think of walking with your phone and wanting a quick look at a site. Vertical lets you scroll down without missing a step.
Another old-school technique to lose is mousing over a popup, or sensitive expanding menus. Mobile people do not want to hover over a link with a finger. Switch to easy click-throughs for category pages with dropdown menus, so your mobile shoppers quickly can get to the level of detail they need to make a buying decision.
3. Make your site sticky for sales. Mobile users want it now. To convert to a sale, retailers need to keep a shopper on the page, deliver all information as quickly as possible, and, when needed, add a fast incentive to prevent losing the sale.
Be sure to avoid redirects at all costs — they are poison to a mobile shopper. Service businesses need a call-to-action that avoids driving them back to other pages like a directory.
OpenTable is a great example of an app that provides a fast sale — in this case a reservation — when incorporated into a restaurant’s site. If you’re selling a product, consider a third-party app that tells you how long a user has been on your site, and can automatically add an incentive, like discounts on shipping, to move them toward conversion.
Be sure to have marketing tools like email or display retargeting at the ready to bring back customers who leave the site. An abandoned cart reminder, for example, tells shoppers that an interesting item can still be had. An email telling them of a price drop on a product might spur conversion. Targeting display ads based on what shoppers viewed is another retargeting tool.
4. Prepare for action. Mobile browsers are an action-oriented bunch, and they often expect to be only a few thumb clicks away from booking a reservation, scheduling a service call, pulling up directions to a local business, or placing an online purchase.
While desktop users may be focused on gathering information and reading detailed content, mobile users typically are more interested in getting to a decision point. Be sure to provide easy access to the touchpoints customers need. If you’re a local business, be sure to display a street address that actually puts the customer at your door.
Similarly, if you’re selling online, make it simple for shoppers to find what they need, and to pay for a product using familiar payment methods. No one wants to pull out a credit card sitting in an airport or a caf. Look for a mobile checkout platform that enables mobile pay for the consumer. PayPal, Venmo and the like go a long way toward increasing conversion rates.
5. Think of social media as a marketing channel. Mobile-ready sites that are most effective are doing a good job of building customer community through offering feedback on their sites and engaging with customers on ideas and inspirations.
The millennial/Gen Z demographic is an intensive social media user, so leverage that energy to build up your site’s relevance. Even if a particular customer has not been to your site, craft a social media program that advertises to followers of sites that matter to your demographic. Also think of Facebook as a prime channel for seeing what your competitors are doing, and which potential customers are looking at their products.
Whether a new site, or a site that needs a refresh, making mobile a priority is now essential to survival. Having a template that provides an enjoyable experience for the user, with an architecture that makes site search easy for the person on the go, is a must-have. Then, put yourself in a mobile shopper’s shoes, and offer a site that makes it easy to pay once a buying decision is made.
To up your chances for a sale, remember to enhance marketing with buying incentives, cart reminders and retargeting. Add to this an active social media presence, and you have the complete playbook to capture the mobile customer.