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?