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Mobile is now driving an average of 10% of visits to e-commerce sites, but there is much work to be done to optimise conversion rates, according to a new study. 

The study by e-commerce agency Screen Pages looked at more than 1.5m visitors to 30 non-optimised websites, and found that conversion rates were an average of 41% lower on mobile. 

Whether retailers are prepared or not, mobile users are accessing their sites, and this study gives some idea of how mobile users interact with standard sites on mobiles. 

A few highlights from the study

  • 10% of visits are from mobile devices, although for premium brands targeting a more affluent demographic, there is evidence that this figure can approach 15%.
  • 81% of all mobile visits are from Apple devices (47% are iPad & 35% are from the iPhone). Again, this may be a function of demographics, but clearly shows the popularity of Apple products.
  • Average bounce rates are lower by 5% (40% vs 35%). Bounce rates are a measure of engagement and show the % of visitors who arrive on a page and leave. Driven by smaller screens and possibly the more demanding mobile user, websites must work harder to engage.
  • In terms of sales, e-commerce conversion ratios were 41% lower overall, ranging from 13% to 73% lower. However, one luxury brand showed an increase of 30%.
  • Average order values (AOV) were slightly higher on average, with half the sample showing an increase (10 of the sites showing an increase in AOV of 10% or more). Those showing a decrease posted in the range 10-30% less.

A few thoughts on the stats

There are few surprises in the stats on conversion rates. You would expect that a standard website would deliver a slightly poorer experience on a mobile, and perhaps the surprise is that conversion rates are not much lower. 

There are exceptions though, and one retailer found its conversion rates actually improved. The study included an expensive florist, a lingerie store and others which may actually appeal to mobile users looking for last minute gifts. 

For example, one of the better converting sites was the Real Flower Company. It doesn't look that easy to use on an iPhone 4: 

A lot of zooming and manipulation of the screen is required to browse the range, view product details and add items to the basket, which would suggest that the nature of the product is a factor in the relatively high conversion rates.

Also, a simple checkout process helps. Even though it isn't optimised for mobile, it doesn't require registration, forms work well, and little things like a postcode lookup help users:

The iPad

The presence of iPads in these stats may well be distorting the picture. Since Screen Pages has several 'luxury' retailers in its client base, the proportion of iPads is higher than normal. 

Though there are still some usability issues, Apple's tablets are far better internet shopping devices than smartphones. 

Other stats have shown that average order values and conversion rates on tablets can be even higher than that of desktop sites, mainly due to the likelihood that iPad owners have a bit more cash to spend. 

What can retailers do? 

The answer is obvious. As I saw quoted on a tweet by @AllisonDNO recently: "Every company has a mobile website whether they like it or not."

People are accessing the web on mobile phones and tablet devices, and a decent proportion are prepared to make a purchase, mobile optimised site or not. 

The answer, of course, is for these retailers to optimise their sites for mobile.

If they can achieve higher average order values, and something like 60% of the desktop conversion rate on sites that are tricky to use, then how much better could they do with a proper mobile site? 

Graham Charlton

Published 4 October, 2011 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 (6)

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Juhani Polkko

Juhani Polkko, Founder & CMO at San Francisco Oy - The Startup Agency

Another obvious answer is a phone call. Mobile is the most natural platform to drive phone calls - with just couple of clicks the visitor gets a direct connection with the merchant and can complete the transaction over the phone.

It is natural that the digital advertising industry tries to minimize offline conversions, but they wouldn't have to. Ad networks and publishers can take their cut by offering CPA Phone Calls, a pricing model in which the advertisers pay only for qualified calls.

Mobile commerce may some day be more convenient, but today it's still replicating online models, where the consumer needs to fill out a form - very inconvenient on your touch screen phone. With a simple Click-to-Call link, the connection can be established even directly from a banner, so also merchants who don't yet have a mobile website can tap into the mobile advertising channels.

about 5 years ago

Darren Bull

Darren Bull, Internet & e-Commerce Professinal at Metakinetic Ltd

Purchasing goods via mobile devices is rapidly increasing in its popularity and it's not something that even the smaller retailers can be complacent about.

Our society is becoming very much more about now - do you wait until you get home to look something up on your PC or do you check it out immediately on your mobile browser?

Admittedly, the checkout experience on mobile devices still leaves a lot to be desired, with forms being rather fiddly for small screen devices, but with rapidly developing mobile technologies, we are seeing improvements in the usability of mobile shopping sites on a monthly basis and I don't think it will be long before it becomes almost as easy as browsing on your home PC.

This could spark a whole new era of outdoor advertising aimed at stimulating impulse purchases in places other than the physical stores. This could be very interesting indeed.

about 5 years ago

Barney Larkin

Barney Larkin, Marketing Director at FusePump (WPP)

Hi Graham. Thanks for a well considered article. I have a vested interest in this area but I wanted to make it clear just how straight forward it is to create a mobile site using product data feeds. Firstly, consumers are not looking for a complete representation of a website on a mobile device (think apps). Companies that try and do this will not garner transactions via this channel. A more simple representation of products and product attributes that engages mobile consumers is going to generate results (Android tech being the future). An API can be used to contact the e-commerce site and for all intents and purposes, the consumer 'thinks' they are purchasing on a mobile device. Lastly, because product data feeds are taken directly from the e-commerce site the mobile site is automatically updated with respect to availability, stock etc. A simple solution for a marketing channel that seems to cause great consternation for online e-commerce merchants.

about 5 years ago

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Brandon Eley

I've found this to be the case with our e-commerce business as well. I did a little digging into our Analytics and found that about 12% of our traffic comes from mobile devices, but (with the exception of tablets) our conversion rate on mobile is 47% lower than our non-mobile conversion rate. We do not currently have a dedicated mobile e-commerce website (although one is currently in development).

This is powerful data to convince executive management there is an ROI in developing a dedicated mobile website. Even if, as Juhani mentioned, the goal is to drive other CTAs such as clicking a phone link to talk to a live operator.

about 5 years ago

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Bosley

Terrible name? Tell that to my MacBook Professional 6 or my iMac four.

Oh yea, they do not do that for their other items.

over 4 years ago

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Gale

This site really has all the information and facts I needed about this subject and
didn’t know who to ask.

over 4 years ago

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