Now that mobile access is essentially ubiquitous, the leading ecommerce sites have incorporated responsive website design to ensure a seamless user experience between devices.

However, the conversion rates on mobile continue to lag significantly, and now we are left to deliver on this next frontier of mobile.

Figures show that there is a massive divide between adoption rates and conversion rates on mobile devices. That means that while there’s no doubt we’re all glued to our smartphones, we’re just lurking around the mobile web rather than becoming customers.

In fact, data from IBM shows that one-quarter of the visits to ecommerce sites occur on mobile devices, but only around 15% of purchases are made on the go.

Here’s where the plot thickens: 85% of online shoppers start searching on one device, most often a mobile phone, and make a purchase on another, according to Google. 

The disconnect 

Last month’s Conversion Conference in San Francisco had the #CRO (conversion rate optimization) experts buzzing about how companies were embracing mobile device strategies.

Conference attendees said a quarter of their site traffic was comprised of mobile devices and the conversion rate for smartphones tended to be just under 50%of the non-mobile traffic.

Let’s take a use case for a medium-sized ecommerce site.

Consider this extract of one of their Google Analytics reports from March:

The industry groups tablets and smartphones as mobile devices. But if we dive into these devices separately, the numbers change significantly.

Many conference attendees mentioned that conversion rates on iPads were actually superior to the desktop/notebook.

We can observe this when we dig deeper into this same mobile device report:

While the conversion rate for the iPad is higher than on desktop/notebook, the smartphone numbers remain significantly low.  How can we increase conversion from users on smartphones?

Hacking the conversion of smartphone-wielding shoppers

 #1 Seamless accounts

One of the most technically challenging elements of having consumers jumping from one device to another is the difficulty to track and personalize their experience.

They add items to their cart while shopping on their phone during their evening commute, then arrive home to their desktop and begin the process all over again.  

Today, many of the leading companies are encouraging shoppers to create user accounts and log in on each device. Their account changes are then automatically reflected across all of their mobile and Web experience. Additionally, account information, such as credit card details, are automatically stored, making it easier to purchase from a mobile device.

This has already caught on among the top etailers, but it will soon become an ecommerce standard for consumers.  

#2 Personalizing to convert more often

Once consumers have seamless accounts with e-tailers, it becomes much simpler to personalize their shopping experience and convert more often. If an item remains in the shopping cart for an extended period of time, a unique offer can be displayed the next time they access the website from a mobile device.

The same process can be applied to other marketing communications, such as sending an email when an item they have saved is about to sell out, or better yet, has gone on sale.

The preference history also provides a rich opportunity to customize the unique offerings and product recommendations on the website for that visitor – the holy grail of personalization. 

# 3 Moving down the funnel 

Sometimes, we have to embrace the fact that many users on mobile devices will not commit to making a purchase because of ingrained unfamiliarity with mobile shopping. Thus, we should apply these tactics not to make the immediate sale – but to send them down the funnel.

One solution worth testing is offering to send a reminder email so they can revisit the product when they are back on their desktop/notebook.

We do this by actually showing users an intervention recognizing that they are using a mobile device and suggesting that they email themselves that specific URL so they can conclude their browsing session at their computer. 

The mobile holy grail

While universal mobile logins and 1-click shopping are not yet the default, eventually we will be “logged in” constantly, with our credit card and shipping information stored in virtual wallets, making it very easy to purchase from just about any site on a mobile device.

Maybe this will be a native feature on the iOS or Android operating systems. But until then, we have to be creative and deliver the best experience for the device – but most importantly – for the context of that user.

Happy optimizing.