As mobile technology trends and usage continue to evolve it becomes more important than ever for e-commerce companies to focus their efforts on mobile users.
Expanding Mobile Trends
Mobile traffic has been growing steadily. By the end of last year, online traffic from mobile uses had surpassed traffic from desktop computers. According to an IDC survey, more than 70 percent of people in the US own smartphones, and 94 percent of them use their phones to search for information. Smartphone research on products is done by 79 percent of users, while 83 percent use their phone to make reservations at restaurants and hotels.
Google has also recognized the importance of the mobile consumer. Their Accelerated Mobile Pages concept was released last year and is already making an impact on marketing strategies.
The expanding use of mobile devices has changed e-commerce. More people are relying on mobile internet access as a much more convenient means of getting online. Any e-commerce business that doesn’t support a mobile-friendly virtual store is losing out on a huge market segment.
According to BizReport.com, mobile users spend 60 percent more time on their smartphone than any other device. They expect a good mobile experience from every site they visit. Furthermore, a 2016 survey from UrbanAirship.com reveals that 80 percent of businesses were planning to budget for a shift to mobile commerce, or m-commerce.
Mobile Friendly Sites
The growing transition from traditional desktop computers to mobile devices is driving significant changes in online web design and marketing campaigns. Interacting with the touchscreens of mobile devices is a different user experience than a computer keyboard or mouse. Developers trained to produce computer applications are now forced to adapt applications to smaller screens and limited computing power.
Mobile-first strategies mean aligning marketing and storefronts to the needs of the mobile users and their devices rather than desktops. Designing web sites for mobile devices should be the priority, not a secondary consideration. Desktop design can utilize more graphics and computing power for greater visual appeal and functionality. But this doesn’t scale to mobile devices well, so the mobile user is experiencing slow page loads, confusing layouts, or poor site navigation.
Mobile designs call for reducing graphics and needless content for a layout that’s more suited to smaller screens. By using a mobile design, you’re creating a positive experience for the majority of online traffic. When you’ve perfected your mobile design, you can adapt it for larger screens by creating additional or alternative versions that include more content.
The mobile-first strategy should be focused on creating not visually stunning or feature-rich store fronts, but simple, user-friendly layouts. These should also integrate mobile payment systems and flexibility for popular platforms such as both iPhone and Android. Faster and easier access for an increasing number of mobile users will bring up conversion rates.
Powerful computers with wide screens can accommodate visually and programmatically complex web pages. Designers need to understand that mobile devices are more limited. They should be regarded as more primitive devices that may also experience unstable connections. Every button has to be necessary, and every function supportable. Mobile development should be oriented to economy of design, not needless overhead.
Mobile Design Elements
The smaller screen requires less clutter of text, imagery, and navigation. These elements should be minimized for simple, efficient flows between pages or processes. Mobile users expect their interactions to be satisfied with a few taps or swipes. Interfaces should provide a clear set of options and a call to action. It’s important to prioritize features and add more only where performance and objectives are not compromised.
This comes down to every element being designed with mobile users in mind. Lists should be short and easily scrollable; forms should be short, easily read, and require minimal text entry or multiple choice answers. You can use resources such as Google’s Site Speed tool to evaluate how page speeds are affected.
Mobile Payment Systems
A mobile-first design is only going to increase in importance. More users are using their smartphones and tablets to do product research but also for making purchases directly from their mobile devices. Payment processes should be easy to understand and follow. A faster, easier flow from browsing to purchasing will improve mobile sales.
A study by GfK reveals that as much as 40 percent of online consumers begin the purchase experience on one device but buy from another. While mobile purchases have increased, conversion rates for these users are still low. Shopping cart abandonment will increase for e-commerce sites that aren’t mobile friendly.
E-commerce platforms should be capable of retaining as much data as possible on every user experience. As mobile shoppers move between devices, they should be able to quickly recall their order or account information. Logs and timestamps can show you the exact path from initial contact to conversion. You can see which pages users prefer and which they abandon. This gives you the insights to create better designs and marketing campaigns.
A Mobile Future
Perfecting your mobile friendly pages helps you to constantly improve the experience for mobile users. Platforms that can detect a range of devices being used to access your site can provide information on what works best with all users, whether via mobile access or desktop browsers.
In summary, research shows that the use of mobile devices among younger and future users is only going to increase, while sales of desktops are down. Today, 21 percent of millennials don’t use desktops at all to access the internet. Wi-Fi and mobile devices are fast becoming the favorite computing option. All of these mobile device users can be shopping online anytime, and from anywhere. On-the-go consumers expect fast and simple interactions with web sites.
Mobile-first strategies are about designing e-commerce sites to drive more sales to a growing segment of online users. Mobile shopping patterns are not the same as desktop shopping. They require different designs and different marketing approaches. But as their numbers increase, a mobile-first strategy is the best option for sustaining e-commerce companies.
Eric D. Gordon is an independent business development and marketing specialist for SMEs. He loves sharing his insights and experience to assist business owners in growing their revenues. You can find Eric on Twitter at @ericdavidgordon