In the past year, the analysts at High Position took an aggregate view of their clients’ traffic data. They discovered that over the course of two years, desktop visits had dropped by nearly 40 percent. In that time, mobile visits increased 123 percent, and tablet traffic grew a staggering 2,957 percent. Their data reflects the wider trend captured by Monetate in 2013: one out of every three ecommerce site visits come from smartphones and tablets, up from one out of five in 2012. Adobe is no exception: recent tests revealed that, in some cases, 25 percent of our Web traffic is mobile. That is more than a 100 percent increase from previous rates of 5–10 percent.
Traffic ≠ Conversion
But does all this mobile traffic translate to conversion? It seems the answer is yes for tablets, but only somewhat for smartphones. Smartphones still convert at only about a third of the rate of tablets, laptops, and desktops. They still function primarily as a browsing and researching platform, with users switching to another device or going in-store to complete the purchase. This begs the question: what’s lacking in the smartphone user experience that discourages conversion? And how can brands improve that experience and begin to take advantage of increasing numbers of mobile visitors?
Optimization = Conversion
An optimized mobile phone and tablet experience—coordinated with traditional channels—can lead to huge lifts in conversion. Marketers for the broadband and phone services provider Plusnet recently built a new responsive site to meet the needs of a growing mobile audience. With the multidevice site, they saw a tenfold increase in sales and a 40 percent decrease in time to convert. Webundies.com also beat the odds with “mobile commerce sales of $168,000, accounting for 5.4% of total sales.” To boost mobile conversion, they developed a phone and tablet-optimized catalog, responsive mobile site, and mobile app.
Here are eight steps you can take to optimize the mobile experience, and revolutionize your mobile users’ path to conversion:
1. Consider the context
In the words of Tim Ash, “The absolute worst thing you can do when creating your mobile site is to assume that people will visit the same pages and try to navigate the site in the same way they do when sitting at a computer.”
Think about the objectives of your smartphone visitors in particular, which will be different even from tablet visitors. What do they need when they’re on the go? Directions, contact information, quick product comparisons, and account information are good for starters. What else might they be trying to accomplish that you can seamlessly integrate into a conversion funnel?
2. Stick the landing
Weak landing pages are a dead end for conversion. What content, copy, offers, or links are the most relevant and most compelling to visitors upon entry? If you can put it up front, you will eliminate the friction of scrolling, click-throughs, and additional screen loads, which smartphone browsers have almost no patience for.
3. Load fast
Speaking of load time: yours should ideally be less than one second. More than this and users feel the delay, and begin to chafe at the disruption to their own flow of thought. Whatever it takes to minimize load time is likely worth the sacrifice, even if it means stripping that slick graphic you worked so hard on.
Visitors often use your site as a first stop on their way to your physical location. Contact information and directions should be clearly visible, and visitors may appreciate a click-to-call or map button. A Google survey found that “92 percent of smartphone owners in the US seek local (offline) information via their devices.” And nearly as many take action by going in store after finding the information they seek.
You can also localize your mobile site and apps by autotranslating to a user’s regional language, targeting messages that will be most relevant to their location and demographic, and offering deals unique to the stores nearest them.
5. Sketch the design of your mobile site on a business card
This is about all your smartphone visitors will be able to view at a time. The iPhone screen size is the size of a business card. When designing a business card, we know to pare it down to only the most pertinent and compelling details and graphics. Make sure mobile users don’t need to scroll to see both the content and any related call-to-action buttons, or they might not make the connection.
6. Minimize navigation, but don’t bury it
The current trend is toward hiding navigation behind the now ubiquitous three-line icon. Especially as users overcome the learning curve of this navigation design, it may become a space-saving go-to. In the meantime, make sure visitors know to click there for more options, or keep spelling out the most essential navigation items.
When I hold my smartphone, I naturally prefer certain forms of navigation. I’m right-handed, so I don’t like to reach my thumb across to the left side of the screen to navigate. Test the placement of each button and arrow and see where it performs best—left, right, top, or bottom?
7. Thumb-focused interactions, swiping
Mobile phone interactions are gesture-based. Think swiping, tapping, and other one-handed movements made as simple as possible. If your visitors have to do more complex actions, like using both hands to type information into forms, they are prone to frustration and may opt to perform the same actions later on their laptop. A quick trick: hold your phone in a way that’s most natural. Then make a circle over the screen with your thumb. That’s the sweet spot for swiping and tapping.
8. Focus on relationships
Encourage visitors to engage your apps and mobile sites in regular, meaningful ways. Many mobile sites are purely utilitarian, and foster visit-and-forget-it interactions. Useful tools and services that are integrated into everyday activities—like the Nest Thermostat app—keep your visitors actively involved in a brand relationship.
If the goal of your mobile experiences is simply to get users to click a link, see an ad, or “buy now,” your mobile marketing venture will be very short-lived. Focus on more meaningful interactions that inspire commitment, such as social media connections, postpurchase rewards and communication, and personalized app features and preferences.
Optimize Mobile UX to Future-Proof Engagement
Are you using mobile interactions at each phase of the user engagement cycle? Are you mining mobile interactions for a deeper understanding of user motivations? An optimized mobile site is fast becoming a necessity. Done right, your mobile properties can represent just as much—if not more—long-term value for your brand as a website. Ignore the mobile user experience, and ignore customer engagement, conversion, and loyalty.