When retailers talk about conversion, they’re generally talking about purchasing.

Mobile purchasing has risen considerably in the past few years, with a third of all online sales now taking place via smartphones and tablets. 

However, as recent YouGov research (registration required) into the smartphone habits of more than 2,000 UK consumers shows, many shoppers are still not closing the deal on their smartphones.

Reluctance to purchase

For those that own a tablet and a smartphone, only 7% would opt to buy a product via their mobile.

Despite not clicking ‘buy’ on their handsets, consumers are using their smartphones extensively throughout the purchasing journey.

Almost 7% of consumers use these devices once a month or more to research or buy a product online. Accordingly retailers’ discussions regarding conversion on mobile should consider a broader process that looks beyond just the final checkout.

The purchasing journey is made up of many steps, including: looking up stock availability; browsing products; and saving items to a shopping basket.

According to YouGov research, more than half (54%) of smartphone users have used their mobile to look up the opening hours or location of a store. More than a third (37%) of consumers have researched a product on their mobile with the intent to buy it online later using a different device.

Retailers should keep in mind the steps leading up to the actual purchase and should, in fact, attribute them to the overall conversion process. For mobile, perhaps transactions are not necessarily the most important part of conversion.

How retailers can improve

Retailers that excel at mobile retail include House of Fraser, Screwfix, Burberry and John Lewis. These retailers all offer a persistent cart and geo-location, placing store information in a primary position on the mobile app or store.

At the other end of the scale, brands such as F.Hinds and Miu Miu offer a poor mobile experience with inadequate form usability and no option for product zoom.

By viewing mobile conversion as a broader process, retailers can better optimise their mobile shopping experience, ensuring that a retail journey which starts on mobile leads to a purchase, whether it occurs on mobile, desktop or in-store.

Taking customer needs into consideration, combined with an understanding of how shoppers use their mobiles, is inherently important for any retailer looking to drive mobile conversion.

Retailers should ensure that store opening times and locations are displayed clearly on mobile websites and in mobile apps. According to Ampersand, 12% of stores do not publish information on opening hours and 39% do not offer geo-location services.

Of those retailers that do offer a store locator, more than a third tuck the link away within a hidden menu, nearly 20% hide it in the footer and more than 6% don’t display it at all.

By not displaying this basic information, retailers are harming their conversion rates on mobile and potentially other channels.

Another area lacking in the mobile shopping experience is the ability to look up stock information for a specific store.

A fifth of shoppers have taken advantage of this feature, when it is available. However, more than three-quarters (77%) of stores do not offer this function when browsing on a mobile device.

Beyond physical store information, there are additional functions retailers should be offering in order to ensure they are maximising conversion on mobile.

Enabling shoppers to save products or create wish lists is important for those looking to continue their shopping on another device, but more than half of retailers (59%) do not offer this functionality.

Above all, the mobile shopping experience should be built with the assumption that the shopper will be interrupted and should also consider that in some cases the user is just browsing to kill time.

As opposed to desktop use, we use our devices throughout the day but in short bursts. Adopting a wider view on what mobile conversion actually means, along with an understanding of what tasks shoppers are using their mobiles for, will help retailers build the best possible mobile experience.

If you are also responsible for a terrific mobile campaign, then enter it into the Mobile Marketing category at The Masters of Marketing awards, brought to you by Econsultancy and Marketing Week (closing date September 23).