Spotlight On Mobile – How To Improve Your Conversion Rates On Smartphones

Smartphones are changing the way we consume media. People ingest mobile content “more actively than any other types of media available,” reports Brett Relander of Launch & Hustle. Plus, “with more than 60% of Internet users searching on more than just a PC alone,” smartphones are also changing the way we browse and shop online.

However, research also shows that in spite of how often people use their mobile devices to consume content and browse on the Internet, mobile ecommerce conversion rates are significantly lower than conversion rates on personal computers. And according to Monetate research, mobile conversion rates are less than conversion rates on tablets, too.

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This is the case across multiple business categories and even on websites that are mobile-optimized.
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So given mobile’s huge popularity, why are conversion rates lower on this communication medium compared to personal computers and tablets, and what can you do to improve your mobile conversion results?

What’s Up With Mobile—Why Won’t It Convert?

michael maceVice President of Product Marketing, Michael Mace“At UserTesting, we’ve been analyzing this problem for years. In thousands of user tests by e-tailers big and small, we see three recurring conversion problems:

  • Some of the problem is inherent to mobile. There are indeed some features of mobile devices, especially smartphones, that discourage purchasing. But that’s not the dominant factor. Much more important are:
  • The purchasing experience on mobile devices is poor, because we as an industry haven’t adapted our sites to the needs of mobile, and
  • In many cases, mobile sales actually do convert, but our current tracking technologies don’t let us see it.”

Smaller Screens Aren’t Ideal For Shopping

This is an obvious difference and not one that you can do a whole lot about; it’s just the nature of the beast. Personal computers offer a lot more screen real estate to users, allowing them to access reviews and additional images and make side-by-side comparisons with greater ease than on their mobile devices.

Switching from page to page on smartphones can be clumsy whereas on devices with larger screens, users have the luxury of being able to “spread out,” easily switching from tab to tab so they can find the information they need to make an informed buying decision.

User tests have shown that “it’s common for people to get partway through the purchasing process on a smartphone, and then stop and say they’ll make the final purchase on a personal computer, where more information is available,” says Michael Mace. According to a Google study, The New Multi-screen World, “65% of people start shopping on a smartphone & 61% will continue the shopping experience on the computer.”

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It’s important to note, however, that this study also concluded that “smartphones are the backbone of our daily media interactions. They have the highest number of user interactions per day and serve as the most common starting point for activities across multiple screens.”

So while your mobile conversion rates may be lower than your conversion rates on other devices with larger screens, just remember that smartphones are still serving a valuable purpose. Think of smartphones as the facilitators of shopping foreplay. Smartphones help get the buying processes started. And while the process is likely to be a tag-team effort, with the actual purchase or conversion being completed on another device, smartphones still play an integral role.

Using Google Analytics To Track Across Multiple Devices

Seer Interactive“Where do your customers do research about your products, and where do they buy? Should your site be responsive? Right now we can only tell that by looking at the devices that people buy on, but we are missing the important part—the research phase…

Currently, when someone goes to your site and does research, you record them as one visitor but if they then use their tablet to buy something, they show up as a different user. So, you have one visitor that does a lot of research on their desktop (but doesn’t buy), and one visitor that doesn’t do any research, but buys on a tablet. This new user ID feature solves that problem…

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In Google Analytics, you can define a user with a unique identifier. Once defined, GA will associate the visitor’s activities to that unique user ID. The best way to do this is if you have an authorization system like a login.

Then, when the user logs in to your site or app, you can send the userID to GA…

After that is all set up, each hit will be sent to GA with that userID.”

To learn more about “tracking the same person across different devices with Google Analytics,” including how to set up the tracking, visit

Slower Network Speeds Impede The Shopping Experience

When it comes to speediness, personal computers have an advantage over mobile devices because personal computers are connected through cords or wifi to high-speed, wired network connections whereas the majority of smartphones are connected through cellular data networks, which are generally not as fast.

And as anyone involved with ecommerce knows, speed matters and nothing will tank your website’s conversion rates faster than a slow loading time. According to a Radware report, “85% of visitors expect mobile devices to load as fast, if not faster, than their desktop counterparts.”

But Don’t Give Up!

Don’t let the limitations inherent to mobile devices get you down, though, thinking there’s nothing you can do to improve your mobile conversion rates, because that simply is not true.

Having a defeatist attitude towards mobile conversion rates will only turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Michael Mace reports that “mobile traffic grew by 81% in 2013. Not only that but mobile traffic is now 18 times the size of the entire internet traffic from 2000.” So instead of allowing your mobile focus to remain at the bottom of your list of priorities, check out the following eight techniques that can help give your mobile conversion rates a boost.

8 Strategies To Increase Your Mobile Conversion Rates

Evaluate For Sticking Points And Slow Loading Times

Personal computers typically offer faster and more powerful browsing experiences than smartphones, but even still, users get impatient if a page takes longer than three seconds to load. So imagine their frustration and the rate of abandonment that could occur if they encounter glitches and slow loading times when they visit your website on their mobile device, which has an inherently weaker processor and slower Internet connectivity.

You need to create an experience that’s as close to being friction-free as possible for your mobile visitors.

Manish PunjabiManish Punjabi of Conversion Fanatics: “Try this with a half dozen people and you will be blown away at how much you learn about your mobile conversion process: Just hand someone your phone and watch them try to register or buy something on your mobile site.

You will see them struggle through it. It’s never easy. Simplify it for them. Repeat. You will discover the ‘sticking points’ in your funnel every time.”

Furthermore, failing to address speed issues can drastically reduce your mobile conversion rates, as can other common errors such as “irrelevant internal cross-linking between your mobile site and your desktop-friendly pages or unplayable video content,” says Arun Sivashankaran.

And since people tend to watch a lot of videos on their smartphones, the latter issue is especially important. Sivashankaran recommends using HTML5 instead of Flash with your videos because Flash isn’t supported by every mobile device.

How To Make Your Mobile Site Render Faster

bryan mcquadePage Speed Developer, Bryan McQuade“To make your mobile web page render in under one second, you should:

  • Keep server back-end time to generate HTML to a minimum (under 100ms)
  • Avoid HTTP redirects for the main HTML resource
  • Avoid loading blocking external JavaScript and CSS before the initial render
  • Inline just the JavaScript and CSS needed for the initial render
  • Delay or async load any JavaScript and CSS not needed for the initial render
  • Keep HTML payload needed to render initial content to under 15kB compressed

If you are looking to improve the performance of your mobile web pages, give these optimizations a try.”

Minimize Friction Without Sabotaging The Shopping Experience

This is a common mistake that marketers make with mobile optimization: shifting visitors from shopping mode to buying mode. Yes, you want to get the conversion, make the sale, but your visitors don’t want to feel rushed. They want to explore and compare in order to arrive at a point when they feel good and ready to complete the purchasing process.

And while minimizing the number of taps, clicks, or steps your visitors have to make is without a doubt beneficial, this should occur after your visitors have decided that they’re ready to buy. “Research has shown that (mobile) conversion rates are directly impacted by streamlined paths to purchase—conversion should occur within three touch events. Two will be table stakes in the near future,” reports an Adobe Mobile Consumer Survey.

And again, no arguments here—just don’t constrict the entire shopping process to nothing but the basics and a mere few clicks, thus rushing, as well as pressuring, your visitors to make hasty buying decisions. When you rethink and test your site’s mobile shopping experience from the bottom up—even though it could be expensive and inconvenient—conversion rates will increase, especially as personal computer traffic continues to shift towards mobile.

On, Michael Mace recommends that you optimize your mobile site for two paths: “Find ways to determine whether a visitor is shopping or browsing and adjust the experience to them. Remember, mobile is all about immediacy and personalization.”
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Give Users The Option To Switch To The Full Version

As previously discussed, there isn’t a whole lot that you can do to overcome the pitfall of mobile devices having smaller, less navigable screen sizes, with the exception of one notable suggestion: giving mobile users the option to click to view the full version of your website, as evinced in the image below.

switch to desktop version

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Of course, you should never force your visitors to use a PC-formatted website on their mobile device. But it is beneficial to offer the option, as it feels like you’re providing an additional service as opposed to an obligation.

Plus, the option also serves to reassure your visitors that they’re not missing out on any vital information during the purchasing process because it’s all right there at their fingertips should they choose to access it.

Strive For Local Relevance When Applicable

Arun SivashankaranArun Sivashankaran of FunnelEnvy: “A Google/Neilson study [PDF] on mobile users and purchases found that close proximity to a business was key to conversions. More specifically the study said that 69% of mobile consumers expect businesses to be within 5 miles of their location, and that 10% expected businesses to be within 1 mile. Similarly, this infographic from digitalbuzz shows that one out of three mobile searches by users are geared towards local interests.

This takes on particular importance if your website does offer services, information or products that are location based. If this is the case, then optimizing for location is an absolute must.

Of course, if your website isn’t strong on local relevance, there’s only so much you can do to give your visitors a useful location-based experience. Wherever it does apply, you can find ways to optimize your mobile website to be more relevant to people within a given geographic area. Offering location-based search features, sales, or content material that’s relevant to a user’s region is one approach.

You could also connect your location-based features to social media platforms such as Facebook by offering users who share their experience via their social profiles special discounts or other offers. This will create a reputation for your mobile site as a reliable hub for its niche inside your city or area.

Keep Form Filling To A Minimum And Use Shortcuts

Names, addresses, phone numbers, and definitely credit card information: entering any kind of data into a smartphone can be a wrenching experience—repeatedly typing Fs and Hs, desperate to key in a G, so close yet so far. It can be maddening even for people with the slenderest of fingers.

The more information you ask people to enter, the more likely they will be to abandon the purchasing process. Make your visitors’ lives easier, not harder. Use a number pad and ask your visitors to enter their zip codes first so their cities and states can be auto-filled for them, thus eliminating two steps.

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Offer A Variety Of Payment Options

Again, filling in credit card information on a smartphone is a pain. So don’t make your customers suffer through it if they don’t have to. To quicken the payment process, offer to save the payment details of repeat customers and accept PayPal as a credit card alternative. PayPal has a solid reputation for being a trusted online payment service so your customers won’t be wary of potential security threats.
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Use Big, Eye-Catching Images And Buttons

When shopping online, people want to have a clear and precise idea of what they’re dealing with. They want to see products up close, from all angles. And given the smaller screen size of mobile devices, displaying images so that customers can get an adequate view of what a product looks like can be challenging.
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David Moth of Econsultancy: “However, there are steps that can be taken to improve the UX and chances of a conversion, including the use of a white background and clear images.

I’m a fan of H&M’s product images within its mobile app as they take up the entire screen, while Walmart also offers decent sized photos.”


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In the same vein, you should also use large call-to-action buttons that are both eye-catching and simple to tap with your thumb. David Moth says, “A CTA that is 44 x 44 pixels should be large enough for all but the fattest of thumbs and there should also be plenty of white space around the buttons to avoid accidental clicks.”

Take a look at the following two examples of call-to-action buttons—one from Walmart and one from Sears:


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…which one looks more user-friendly to you?

Standardize Your Language

Michael Mace: “Make sure the language you use in your store matches the vocabulary used by your customers. This applies to the tags and menus you use to identify your products and the button labels you use for navigation within your store. When in doubt, copy the terms used by the biggest ecommerce leaders. They’re the ones being seen by the most customers.”


justin christianson 1Justin Christianson of Conversion Fanatics: “Each day, more and more people are leveraging their mobile devices to make purchases, with some companies experiencing more than 70% of their customers coming in on mobile.  It is important that you pay attention to how people experience your site via mobile.

A couple of tips are that on mobile people are used to scrolling and not necessarily clicking, which is the opposite in most cases for desktop.  Make sure your forms accept pre-fill data, expand several options and make sure your site is responsive. Also, make sure that popups and overlays are responsive and don’t block such things as buttons and forms. I know it may sound silly but often times this is overlooked.”

Figuring out how to optimize for personal computers isn’t a process that happened overnight. It took years. And that will likely be the case with mobile as well. So have patience and continue to test as much as possible so you can pinpoint where the sticking points lie and assess why they’re occurring and then get more of your customers to convert.

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