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I had an interesting email from an ecommerce site owner in Texas over the weekend, wondering why mobile outperforms desktop on his site for conversion rates. 

The site in question is discgolfstation.com, and owner Clint Henderson tells me that mobile conversion rates are twice that of desktop, which is obviously unusual. 

While the mobile site isn't bad at all, it seems the problem is down to poor desktop performance. 

Here, I'll suggest some possible reasons, but it would be great to see what suggestions you have for improvements as well...

Reasons for lower conversion rates

While Clint understandably did not want to reveal all the numbers, I did clarify a few things with him. 

For example, I wondered whether he was looking at mobile and tablet together, as the tablet conversions may be pushing the overall mobile numbers up. According to Clint, while tablets have decent conversion rates, mobile is still higher than tablet. 

Also, there is a roughly even split between new and returning customers. I did wonder whether returning customers with saved details were pushing the numbers up. 

According to Clint: 

Unfortunately, mobile is normal and desktop is simply abysmal. I'm talking well under 1.0%, which for non-mobile just shouldn't be the case. Now, one thing to note is, we do have a lot of traffic coming in to resource-type pages, pages that this disc golf course locator, where you'd expect a very low ecommerce conversion rate.

That said, when I segment people landing on good money pages where the conversion rate should be decent, it's still just terrible.  I'm talking people looking for things like 'disc golf bags' (we're on the first page of Google for this) so lots of traffic coming in to shop our 'disc golf bags' - and still, very low conversion rates.  I just don't get it.

As mentioned in the intro, I think the issue is poor desktop performance rather than excellent mobile results, though the mobile site does have a few advantages. 

'Hidden' CTAs

The calls to action on product pages are below the fold (and so is the price), and therefore not immediately visible: 

It's not the clearest CTA either: 

Call to action buttons should jump out at the shopper and, crucially, should leave them in no doubt about the next step they need to take to make the purchase. 

I'd suggest testing variations, as factors such as placement, size and colour can all make a difference. 

Errors on product pages

Error messages can be conversion killers, as they are not only frustrating, but they also undermine the customer's trust in the reliability of the website. 

Here, if you click on 'add to cart' before selecting a size and colour, you get this error message: 

You then need to click on the green button to return to the page, which isn't the best user experience. Error messages should be displayed on the page where the mistake has occurred, while sites should do what they can to avoid customers encountering these messages in the first place. 

In this case, if it's necessary to select colour / weight options, then make this unmistakably clear to customers. Highlight the drop down box more clearly, or add text to explain what is required. 

If you do have to show an error message, do this where the error has taken place, as this will make it more likely that the customer will take steps to correct the problem. 

This example from TopShop is how it should be done. The message is clear, and just under the size selection box: 

Also, where only one size is available and therefore no selection is required, as on this page, the customer shouldn't have to select a size. 

No delivery charges on product pages

This is something that annoys web users. Shipping charges are part of the purchase decision for customers so clear and upfront info on product pages is the best method. 

The site does have a link to 'shipping policy' in the footer, but this is small and easily missed. Customers may be abandoning due to lack of info here. 

In addition, the site offers free shipping for orders over $45. This is a great way to encourage sales and increase basket values, but the site doesn't make this clear at all. 

It should be displayed prominently in the header, on product pages, and customers should be prompted on the basket page to spend a little more to qualify. 

Coupon code box

This may be a small problem, but adding a coupon code box to the checkout or basket page is effectively inviting consumers to head to Google and search for codes. 

It tells the customer that discounts are available, and that other people are getting them. This may prompt them to abandon as they feel they aren't getting the best price, or they may head to Google to search for codes. 

If they find some they may come back, or they may find codes from a competitor. Either way, it's taking customers away from the checkout. 

There are a number of possible solutions to the coupon code problem, including showing codes only to customers arriving from affiliates or emails, making it less prominent, or offering a basic code to any customers that arrive at checkout. 

Registration at checkout

Making customers register before checkout is a proven barrier, and one which should be avoided.

Of course, registration should be an option, and there are benefits to customer and retailer, but it shouldn't get in the way of making the sale. 

Checkout not enclosed

Enclosing the checkout means removing main navigation, the search box, and other links which may distract the shopper from the task in hand (paying) and take them away from the checkout. 

Here, there are various elements on view which may distract shoppers: 

Checkout error messages

Error messages during checkout can be a real conversion killer, perhaps more so than on product pages. Not only are they irritating, but they can also undermine customer confidence in the security of the process. 

Here, I think I've made an error entering card details, but the message doesn't make that as clear as it could and, as with the product page error, it dumps me on a separate page. 

In summary...

Without full knowledge of and access to the site analytics, as well as running various tests, we can only guess at the reasons for the poor desktop performance of this site. 

However, the problems I've mentioned here will undoubtedly be contributing to the problem, and fixing these issues should improve conversions.

I'm sure I've missed things our smarter readers will have spotted, so please leave your comments below...

Graham Charlton

Published 15 May, 2013 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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AZ

I think this is a rare example that we don't often encounter, normally it's much easier to have better performance on desktop version of the site due to large screen property and straight-forward design for best practices. However this post shows we should never take it for granted. That said, I'd actually like to see their mobile site.

My other thought is, can there be an example that some sites are much easier to achieve better performance on mobile site?

Is my post blocked?

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@AZ Your first comment was picked up by filter, sorry about that.

If you access the site on a mobile you'll see the optimised version. It isn't the greatest mobile site ever, but perhaps the relative simplicity helps. It has a one page checkout for instance.

I did wonder whether the nature of the product increased the likelihood of mobile orders, but the owner doesn't think this is the case.

over 3 years ago

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AZ

Graham, thank you. I'll have a look at the mobile site.

over 3 years ago

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Thomas McMahon

Not so random interjection - the Buzzz is one of my favorite discs in my bag. It makes some sense for mobile to outperform web for this niche as disc golfers are likely to search for a disc they just lost while they're still on the course (just speculating of course).

Of course (hehe) that shouldn't be the case especially if they're ranking so well for those search terms. Good advice, I hope Clint listens. I'd like to see a follow up post in the future if he's able to turn this around to see what steps he took and how they worked for him.

over 3 years ago

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David Shaw

I would actually be interested to see the analytics for this site to help diagnose the true conversion barrier on desktop sites.

I would also be happy to help optimize the site by providing a free consultation if the website owner is interested, then measure the results.

over 3 years ago

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