Each year, the Adobe Digital Insights team captures data on a wide range of retail metrics over the two months from 1 November to 31 December. The team’s analysis of this past holiday season’s shopping trends reveals some intriguing shifts in how large and small retailers compete in the digital space.
More customers shopped later. In fact, at 34 percent, growth in shopping activity on the last Monday before Christmas was nearly four times the seasonal average across all countries worldwide. In other words, large and small retailers are becoming more effective at converting their visitors.
And yet, while smaller US retailers are finding new ways to close the gap in terms of eyeballs on advertising—achieving an enormous 193 percent year-over-year leap in display traffic on Black Friday and Cyber Monday—larger, more established players continue to outperform smaller ones, especially in terms of mobile conversions, which lag far behind conversions in store and on desktop.
What’s going on behind this “mobile gap?” Why do larger retailers continue to outperform smaller ones on mobile, despite an increasingly even playing field in the digital space? The answers reveal some intriguing behavioural patterns among mobile shoppers, along with some opportunities for smaller retailers to close the gap.
The nature of the gap
This past holiday season, US search spend increased 16 percent year-over-year on Black Friday, and mobile searches doubled their impressions on both days. This sharp increase points to a larger trend: customers are becoming increasingly likely to perform a product search on a mobile device before they ever open an app or visit a brick-and-mortar store.
On the whole, mobile sales held strongest on some of the biggest revenue days, as well as on the smallest. In the US, Christmas and Christmas Eve actually ranked lowest in terms of total sales on mobile, with Thanksgiving and Super Saturday ranking closer to the top. This hints that a growing number of customers are looking to take advantage of holiday sales without braving the in-store foot traffic, or to investigate and/or purchase before ever setting foot in a store. Mobile provides an ideal touchpoint for those types of conversions.
Yet oddly enough, mobile visits continue to far outpace mobile revenue around the world. Even in the UK, where mobile accounts for the highest percentage of revenue, only 41 percent of sales take place on mobile, even though 60 percent of visits are made from a smartphone. In France, meanwhile, mobile devices account for only 26 percent of all revenue, but 44 percent of visits. In fact, while mobile traffic continues to climb, mobile conversion rates remain flat, around 1 percent, for many retailers, lagging far behind conversion rates on desktop.
This “mobile gap” is a cause for concern—but it’s also an enormous opportunity.
Causes and solutions
One crucial step along the path to better attribution is more consistent mapping of specific customers’ journeys across mobile search, desktop, and brick-and-mortar. For example, large multichannel retailers can offer customers the option to shop and buy online at the last minute, then pick up their purchases in-store in time for the holiday—a fact that continues to give larger retailers the advantage in terms of mobile conversions.
In other words, a low conversion rate on mobile doesn’t necessarily equal lost sales. Mobile serves functions that simply didn’t exist in the old desktop-only world—for example, the roles once filled by phone books and special-offer mailers. Thus, to some degree, this “mobile gap” may boil down to an attribution problem, which will begin to vanish as we better understand the ways desktop, mobile, and in-store support one another’s functions throughout the customer journey.
Last year, Adobe launched the Multi-Device Attribution Co-Op to address this challenge and give retailers a clearer overall picture of how each customer uses each device throughout the path to purchase. With multidevice analytics, it’s possible to gain a more accurate view of the true mobile conversion rate.
Still, even with that more accurate view, people are buying less on mobile devices than they did on desktop, even when they report that they came to the mobile touchpoint with the intent to buy. This is because the vast majority of mobile shopping experiences remain lengthy and cumbersome.
The solution to this friction is drastic simplification and streamlining. US-based Razorfish, for example, has developed a “five-field checkout,” replacing the whopping 23 fields many mobile stores force customers to fill out on the path to purchase—and dramatically raising conversion rates. Even a bit of minor streamlining, such as improved integration with mobile wallets, has been shown to measurably boost mobile conversions.
In short, while some causes of the mobile gap, such as the desire for in-store pick-up, are probably here to stay for the foreseeable future, other causes, such as inadequate attribution modeling and cumbersome mobile points of sale, can be addressed with existing tools and approaches. If you’re looking to close your own organisation’s mobile gap, we at Adobe are here to help.