With mobile now accounting for the majority of visits to retail websites, it’s crucial that retailers deliver a mobile experience that drives conversions.

To help ecommerce professionals understand how to improve mobile UX we recently examined 15 leading retail sites from the point of view of smartphone shoppers. 

The research revealed over 120 mobile conversion blockers as well as highlighting best practice from sites including Amazon, Argos, Schuh and Tesco Direct. 

Here’s a quick summary of some of the more interesting findings:

And now I’ll discuss five best practice tips that retailers should follow to drive their mobile conversions. 

Also, to learn more about this topic, book onto Econsultancy’s mobile usability and UX training course.

1. Give customers control of product listing pages

Since it is harder to scan long lists of items on a small screen device, mobile shoppers expect to be able to filter and sort listings to suit their needs.  

Even though all of the sites we tested supported filtering and sorting on product listing pages, retailers need to address two common issues:

  • Filtering and sorting did not work reliably on five of the tested sites.
  • Users could not filter in the way they wanted.

For example, watch (and listen to) this user try to sort coffee machines on the Debenhams site and then conclude “that’s pretty hopeless”.

2. Simplify form interactions 

Since our previous report, there has been a marked improvement in retailers’ sites when it comes to form design, but improvements are still needed if abandonment is to be reduced, particularly during checkout.

That’s why retailers need to really focus in on how real people interact with their forms.

We found many areas where form interaction could be improved for mobile customers including:

  • Double-entry of email address and password.
  • Auto-capitalising that caused double-entry validation to fail.
  • A country drop-down with over 200 alphabetically listed entries.
  • A date-of-birth field (thankfully not mandatory, but another field nonetheless).

This screenshot shows how auto-capitalising an email adress can lead to failed validation:

3. Locating a store is an important conversion

We found many problems with what should be a relatively straightforward interaction, and one that Schuh has cracked (try it now on your phone – with one hand).

In particular embedding Maps made it difficult for users to scroll the store page. It might be better to adopt a simpler multi-page approach to showing store information, rather than cramming it all into one page.

Watch (and hear) this user stuggle with the Boots store finder.

For more on this topic, read: Store locator tools: which retailers offer the best mobile UX?

4. Mobile optimise all pages – a quick win?

On three sites we tested users were presented with desktop pages – particularly when they looked for contact us or returns information - meaning the information was hard to read.

When they followed navigation links in the desktop site they were served desktop pages even when mobile ones were available.

This is a potential quick win for retailers, given that the main experience has already been optimised.

5. Obsess over speed

More than half of the retail sites tested in the report suffered from performance issues – even though the participants were all using WiFi connections.

The issues we identified cannot simply be blamed on page size alone.

Mobile devices are more sensitive to CSS and Javascript code that is not optimised meaning it takes them longer to render a page, even if its (kb) size is small.

As retailers like Schuh (who we know obsess over performance) raise the bar, customers will become less tolerant of slow loading mobile sites.

Retailers should set themselves a sub-two-second page load and rendering target for mobile devices and test on a range of devices and connection speeds.

In conclusion…

Retailers have made big improvements over the past 12 months, but customers’ expectations of mobile sites have risen.

A year ago we observed mobile shoppers blaming their phone, themselves or connection when a retail site under-performed, but today they blame the retailer.

For the full results of this survey, download the WhatUsersDo and Practicology Mobile Usability Report.