Take Your Mobile Commerce Sales With a Grain of Salt

Mobile, mobile and more mobile. 2013 was clearly the year of the mobile shopper. According to comScore, 55% of all time spent on online stores was done on mobile devices. Combine this with the growing popularity of smartphones and tablets overall and there is no doubt that mobile traffic is going to be huge in 2014.

And seamless browsing and shopping across mobile platforms will be crucial for any business that wants to grow in 2014.  Right?

At the risk of sounding controversial, let us add just a touch of healthy skepticism to these rosy forecasts. Not all mobile traffic is created equal, and statistics that aggregate all the devices together can be misleading.  2013 has shown us that tablet users behave very differently than smartphone users. According to Econsultancy, tablet shoppers not only have a much higher conversion rate than the average mobile shopper, but spend about 21% more than other consumers.

Data from our own Influence and Impact research supports this notion: ”While mobile accounts for 15% of site traffic, ShopVisible’s retail data shows that only 4% of orders are placed from these devices. Mobile users do behave differently, even on sites that are optimized, and conversion will likely always be lower than desktop or tablet traffic.”

One thing holding users back could be the form factor. We believe anecdotally and from our own personal experience (both non-scientific), that using a smartphone has its place – mostly searching, learning, and browsing.  But when it comes to the transaction, it is much easier to have a full keyboard available from a tablet or even better from a desktop.  There might be a psychological explanation that also has merit. People just feel safer and more assured of pulling the trigger on something like sending off a job application, or making a major purchase, from the comfort, safety and relative distraction free environment of their home office.  When I am on smartphone, I am usually on the move and multitasking, certainly not the type of situation best optimized for making important $$$ decisions.

Google understands this. The previous behavior of Google Analytics was to clump both smartphones and tablets under the mobile property with a yes/no value. When end users looked at their data, they’d check the mobile overview and assume that this was referring to smartphones – painting a very different picture to what was really happening. The long desired ability to segment mobile (smartphone) was delivered to Google Analytics users last summer.

Of course, with technology the way it is, site designers and developers are doing everything they can to overcome these obstacles.  Things like responsive design, finger friendly interfaces, new fonts and great big graphics in small form, are clearly designed to help make it easier for consumers  to open up their wallets via smartphones.

Still, at this point in time when examining your mobile traffic, it will always be good to separate out your devices as much as you can, to get a truer view of the bottom line.


About Sean Cook

Chief Executive Officer
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