Hot on the heels of Graham’s post, 23 reasons why mobile users will abandon your site, I’ve just moderated an Econsultancy roundtable on mobile site optimisation.

Chatham House rules applied, so I make no references to the 12 people round the table handling content, marketing, performance, analytics, optimization and conversion for their retail, financial services, utility, travel and media businesses.

We agreed an agenda for the session to cover five challenges brands face delivering excellent mobile sites:

  • Winning round other stakeholders.
  • Personalising your site to keep them coming back for more.
  • Creating great UX and reducing bounce rates.
  • Fusing mobile into complex, multi-screen customer journeys.
  • Maximising conversion to sale.

Winning round stakeholders

Let’s kick off with the most important question: what do your customers want from your site?

Maybe it’s a combination of comparing prices, checking and sharing product reviews, booking tickets, reading free or paid content, locating their nearest store or redeeming a coupon.  Or buying the product.

IMRG stats show 37% of online sales in UK are now on mobile, totalling £8bn in 2014. 

You’ll have your own data points to answer this one. But how does this translate to resource and budget needed to develop the best performing site?

Clearly this depends on your sector, your company culture and the boss. In the gambling world, over 70% of site traffic and over 50% of bets placed come from mobile, so there’s no need to put the business case for investment.

For retailers tracking the majority of site traffic on mobile, it’s clear that poor mobile UX loses existing customers, and deters prospective customers.

For others this is a real challenge … on our roundtable a publisher explained how the CEO will only invest in mobile when presented with empirical evidence that he can monetize existing subscribers based on predicted browser volumes, frequency, time of site.  Benchmarking may help, but I sense a more radical approach is needed.

Take the visionary boss who accepts mobile will transform business as we know it, and realise that organisational change and breaking down existing silos is critical. Five years ago eBay President & CEO John Donahoe deployed a horizontal mobile team strategy to agitate disrupt the rest of the business.

Today mobile is a focus for everyone at eBay, unifying the business. According to Alex Von Schirmeister, VP of Marketing, Operations & Advertising at eBay:

Our CEO created a lot of internal unrest when he created a mobile commerce unit. He gave them absolute permission to step on other functions’ toes… eBay would not have been successful if that team hadn’t told everyone else to sod off.

Personalising the site experience: ‘Customer first’

Many brands are proud to be ‘mobile first’, with a clear focus on developing mobile products such as sites and apps.  But that’s really missing the point. We may share our tablets with others, but we never share our phones.

We should replace ‘mobile first’ with ‘customer first’. Think about the many ways you can personalize the site based on that unique user – previous browsing patterns and purchase history, upstream click path analysis, geo-location, daypart, and then make recommendations for other products which customers are most likely to purchase. Think Amazon …

Leading retailers are on the case, with proven success. Take a look at Top Shop’s new site, launched in December, homepage images change in realtime to maximize click thrus to product pages.

Data from Qubit shows a prominent search box on the homepage drives a 10x increase in conversion.

API feeds to other external data feeds (weather, pollen count etc) pull in other relevant and content to sites for travel and pharma brands

Creating great UX

HTML5 has certainly helped, as, of course, have superior handsets and bigger screens. Consider the impact of  iPhone 6 plus, Galaxy Note and other super size smartphones on mobile site browsing. Responsive Web Design has emerged as the default for most brands.  More on the RWD v Adaptive question here.

As a rule, the best mobile site experiences are quick, easy and painless. But that probably doesn’t mean quick and easy for your dev teams …

The ‘customer first’ approach extends beyond what to display on the landing page, and feeds into the user experience and site development process.

An online retailer selling personalised greeting cards is a great example. Insights from customers help fine-tune marketing spend for customer acquisition – informing which social channels, search terms, banner ad creative, affiliates, generate the most traffic.

Once on-site, customer feedback also informs the look a feel of the site, product descriptions, packages and pricing to maximise AOV. Their developers were planning to build personalisation features which customers simply didn’t understand. ‘Card configurator’??

Thanks to customer feedback, these features were renamed and redesigned in the next agile sprint to accelerate customer adoption and usage.

Customer feedback also revealed unexpected pricing tolerance across the product range, which resulted in new ranges hiking AOV x8 for some product lines.

Pre-testing each and every stage of the mobile site ensures you don’t waste valuable dev resource building sites which deliver poor UX.

Mobile’s role in complex customer journeys 

Referring back to the first point,  your site may satisfy user demands at complete every stage in the customer journey – checking out the company, browsing the product lines, checking reviews, demo videos, social presence, checkout – but that won’t be the case for every sector.

More often mobile is part of a more complex journey. Google estimates over 50% of online purchases take over 20 days to complete. Many will involve multiple screens.

Think about the last holiday you booked. For the flight or hotel, maybe you had a single site session to check flight times, compare prices, and buy.

Customers are more likely to browse on mobile and carry out research but want to save choices into a wish list, but complete on desktop or tablet – particularly when planning a holiday with others, including activities for the kids, car hire, insurance.

Most likely you’ve needed input from others, on other screen and input from Trip Advisor and your social networks.

The mobile site may provide the inspiration, but the booking process will likely involve other screens, and other people so make it easy to customer to share content with users.

There’s clear evidence customers are influenced by reviews and recommendations and act on them. Referral site Mention Me shows 20% of shoppers will refer great deals to friends, and 30% of them will purchase as a results. Looks like an immediate 6% increase in sales.

Optimising conversion

Whether you talk to Amazon, Barclays or most truthful analytics teams, you’ll hear the same story. Mobile site conversion sucks. Over 90% of mobile transactions fail.

Having reviewed over 20 retailer mobile sites in the past nine months, the checkout pages are almost always the weakest link on the journey. Why?

I’d argue there are two main reasons.

  1. Either the check out process includes too many stages, which allows more likelihood of poor connectivity to curtail the process.
  2. And / or the on-screen navigation is not clear.

Leading players in the gambling sector are setting the standard here. The checkout section of is worth a look as registration, deposit and bonus taking are all very well executed.

It’s easy to see where I am in the process, with on-screen guidance on password requirements (show and hide option is really helpful), plus post code lookup to save inputting full address details.

The 200% welcome bonus is added to my deposit immediately.

Clear, easy reg. process with show / hide password feature:

Verification via SMS code, post code look up:

Prominent welcome message with free spins offer:

The last word

Clearly there’s a lot to consider here to deliver an exceptional mobile site experience. What’s the payback?

I’ve not got my hands on industry research showing the commercial impact of optimizing your site.  This blog makes several references to gambling businesses and retailer – where mobile plays a central role the customer experience.

In my experience, those with optimised sites can expect the to see results in this order:

  • +50% Transactions on mobile
  • +33% Revenue from tablet traffic
  • +20% Average order value (mobile & tablet)
  • +135% Revenue from mobile traffic

We’d welcome your comments, feedback and any results you can share.

Take outs

  • Make sure all other stakeholders know what proportion of traffic is mobile, and how you perform against competitors.
  • Use internal and external feeds to personalise the site, driving repeat visits and positive referrals.
  • Customer feedback informs the site UX, but also demand for products, promotions and pricing.
  • Pre-testing each and every stage of the mobile site ensures you don’t waste valuable dev resource building sites which deliver poor UX.
  • Keep the checkout process short and simple, provide clear navigation and hand holding.