You already know the rhetoric: the time to reach mobile customers is now. You've seen all the statistics about how fast the mobile channel is growing, but you also know that even doubling from 3 percent of the market to 6 percent still only represents 6 percent of the market. Perhaps you've grown skeptical of the importance of mobile and let it slide a little bit because your desktop site is still converting well. There’s no way around it — optimizing mobile sites is time and labor intensive, and you have a million other fires to put out.
Welcome to 2017. The reality today is that mobile is no longer just the fastest-growing sales channel. By the end of the year, it will be the largest sales channel, period. Mobile traffic and search has already supplanted desktop traffic, and that doesn't include tablets, which also benefit from mobile-enabled sites. Before this year is over, mobile conversions will eclipse sales on desktop sites. All that hubbub about mobile growth has come to fruition. It's undeniably here and ready to leave retailers that don't embrace it in the dust.
This means that going mobile is no longer a nice to have or an afterthought. Instead, it should be the forefront of your strategy. But how do you make a splash in the mobile ecosystem when it's so different from the desktop environment we've all become accustomed to? It comes down to understanding the channel and how consumers use it.
Conversion is King on Mobile
Marketers are used to competing with noise, but think about how many distractions there are for mobile users. The very nature of the channel means that people are using it on the go. Consumers browse mobile sites while waiting for friends to arrive, sitting at an airport or even while stopped at a red light (not recommended, but it happens). Mobile devices are used to pass time, and there's often an event that puts an abrupt end to the session. The friend arrives, the airplane starts boarding or the light turns green. In every instance, the session comes to an immediate end. It’s not like leaving a desktop computer to answer a phone and you can come right back and pick up where you left off; those abandoned mobile sessions are often never resumed.
Winning on mobile is much more than just being there. Quick pathways to conversion are imperative because if you don’t close the sale quickly, the lead is lost — maybe forever. When you plan out a mobile experience, think about whether a user can locate an item and convert on it before that red light turns green. This goes against the conventional wisdom of not asking for a sale too quickly, but mobile users are seeking a streamlined “get in and get out” experience. Making the path to conversion too cumbersome is the biggest risk to lost sales on mobile.
Payment Partners Are Mandatory
Have you ever tried to fill out forms on a mobile device? Think about the logistics of it all: Typing in your name and address using that tiny on-screen keyboard is cumbersome, not to mention consumers are already using one hand to hold the device. Asking them to use the other to pull out a credit card and key in the numbers is asking too much. They won’t do it. E-commerce giants like Amazon.com can get along using apps that store customer payment information and enable single-click buying, but that only works for mega-sites where millions of customers have accounts.
The great majority of e-commerce sites don’t enjoy that luxury, but they can provide the same ease of checkout by partnering with third-party payment platforms like Paypal, Apple Pay and others. Consumers are already comfortable with these services and trust them. More importantly, they streamline the process. When they're enabled, all consumers have to do is log into them and their payment and shipping information is automatically populated. The difference between entering a login and password vs. name, address and credit card information is monumental when it comes to completing or abandoning a purchase.
You Can — and Should — Have it All
How quickly customers migrate to mobile from desktop is highly dependent on target demographics. Generally speaking, the younger the target market is, the more likely they are to shop on mobile devices. For many companies, there will be considerable crossover for years and maybe decades, so don’t write an app and close down your website just yet. In fact, this is generally a bad idea because relying on an app for mobile sales is adding friction to the process. Don’t force consumers to locate and download your app to shop online.
Instead, create a responsive site that's optimized for mobile devices but still displays well on desktops. Note that this is different from developing a site optimized for desktops but still displays well on mobile. It’s time to put mobile first, but that doesn’t mean it's advisable to alienate desktop users. With so many different devices and screen sizes, the bulk of developers’ time should be spent testing as many as possible. When that's done, it's relatively easy to make sure everything also works well for desktop computer users. Browsing behaviors on desktops are becoming shorter and mimicking those on mobile devices, so best practices for quick conversion from mobile still apply.
The mobile shopping revolution is no longer coming, it’s already here. There's still time to capture it, but every day that window gets smaller. Make mobile strategy a top priority for 2017, and 12 months from now your annual sales report will reflect a positive return on that investment.
Adam McCargo is an account director at BKV, a part of unified.agency.