8 Reasons Why Mobile Doesn’t Convert, and How to Fix Them
If there's a consensus about anything in the fast-changing mobile market, it's the idea that e-commerce conversion — i.e., the ability to move a customer from interest to purchase — is lower on mobile devices than it is on personal computers. A recent report by Monetate found that conversion on personal computer websites is three times the rate on smartphones. While it's clear that smartphones have the lowest conversion, the conversion rate on tablets is also lower than that of computers. For instance, Crate and Barrel reported a tablet conversion rate of 2.35 percent, but a smartphone conversion rate of only 0.92 percent.
Although we can agree conversion rate is usually lower on mobile, there's no consensus on why. After conducting thousands of mobile user tests on e-commerce sites, UserTesting suggests that low mobile conversion isn't usually caused by smartphones themselves, but by the designs of mobile shopping sites and apps. Here are the top eight reasons why mobile doesn't convert and how to fix them:
1. Taking the fun out of shopping: The first, and biggest, mistake that we see companies make when designing for mobile commerce is that they try to force customers from shopping to buying. Shopping on a personal computer is a seductive process. There are usually an enormous number of products to choose from, it's easy to browse, and years of design work have gone into creating a seamless shopping experience.
In an effort to respond to smaller screens and slower connections, retailers often try to strip down their mobile shopping experience to the basics. A particular focus is on enabling a purchase with a minimum number of taps. The result is a mobile app or website that forces the user to make a quick purchase decision rather than providing a great shopping experience.
Our research shows that the best results happen when a site or app adapts to where the user is in the decision process. Once someone decides what to buy, they should be able to do it with a minimal number of taps. But if they're undecided, they should feel free to explore and compare. Beyond this basic design issue, we also see a wide array of small usability problems in many mobile commerce sites and apps.
2. Confusing terminology: With small screens, every word used needs to be carefully considered. Make sure the language you use matches your customers’ vocabulary, specifically the tags and menus used to identify products and navigation buttons.
3. Menu mania: People are quickly confused by most menu systems that run more than two levels deep. If you need more than two levels, add a landing page after the second level to keep people oriented. Make it like an elevator in a department store, traveling between general categories of goods.
4. Carousel confusion: Carousels are controversial even on a desktop (just do a web search for "carousels suck"). If you must include one, keep the images clear and the words few (and large). Don't use a carousel slot for something that should be a navigation button.
5. Untappable items: Smartphone and tablet interfaces are built around the idea of direct manipulation. Ensure everything is tappable. The mobile paradigm is to tap and edit in place, rather than going forward and back.
6. PC surprises: Although research shows it's helpful to give mobile users the option of viewing the PC version of a site, it's not helpful to force people into it with no alternative and no warning. Give access to the PC view, but not by surprise.
7. Cross-device shopping: It's increasingly common for the purchasing process to extend across multiple devices. Track users across device types and make it easy for them to share a shopping session with themselves to resume later on a different device.
8. Disruptive changes: It's likely that the biggest improvements in mobile commerce will come from new forms of shopping that leverage the unique strengths of mobile. For instance, Amazon.com's Fire phone features Firefly, an app that recognizes photos or names of products and lets the user instantly order them. Mobile shopping could in the future be a feature of the smartphone rather than a separate app or website that the user visits — i.e., the device becomes the store, rather than the device being used to access the store.
An Action Plan for Mobile Conversion
The mobile conversion problem can't be solved instantly. It's driven by a large number of small issues rather than one big thing that can be easily fixed. The only way to find all of those issues is to do careful user tests on your mobile app or site, in small batches, throughout the development process. That lets you find and fix problems before they get baked into the architecture. Although mobile is still a minority of commerce traffic, it's growing rapidly. Commerce companies that treat mobile as a second-class citizen are putting themselves at risk as the move to mobile accelerates.
Mike Mace is a mobile strategist at UserTesting, an online usability testing platform.