Why do retailers still not see mobile commerce as a priority?

Following years of mid-market retailers downplaying the importance of the mobile channel due to low conversation rates, mobile traffic now dominates online activity.

The result? Far too many retailers are simply opting for a quick-fix responsive design approach to create a ’mobile friendly’ experience that is anything but.

Slow loading pages, unmanageable navigation and tortuous checkout processes are driving bounce rates in excess of 80%.

Retailers are not only missing out on sales but creating an appalling first impression in what has rapidly become the dominant route to market, effectively closing the door to the mobile sales channel.

mCommerce is not about simply making eCommerce mobile; a mobile commerce first strategy is now a retail imperative.

Mobile domination

Mobile traffic now dominates for the majority of retailers – as evidenced by companies such as John Lewis, which reported in January of this year that upwards of 70% of their online Christmas visitors arrived via a mobile device.

>See also: Getting ready for a mobile payment world

So why do a vast number of retailers not see mobile commerce as a priority?

Yes, mobile conversion rates are low compared to desktop – but that misses the point. If the vast majority of customers’ first interaction with a brand is via mobile, then a retailer must create the best possible mobile experience – or risk losing business, for good.

Yet those mid-market retailers that have opted for a quick-fix responsive-design approach are experiencing bounce rates leaping often to over 70%.

Sites deliver incredibly slow page loads combined with complex navigation processes, which are the antithesis of an experience that follows mobile commerce best practice.

While web developers have virtually unanimously embraced responsive for all mobile-related development, the reality is that while this model works well for representing content in a mobile form factor, it has some serious flaws when it comes to a successful mCommerce experience.

The issue is not simply resizing content; responsive design generally demands the entire desktop site content has to be processed on the smartphone, including images and complex web technologies such as JavaScript.

However powerful the latest generation of smartphones and data networks are, this is simply too much to ask.

No wonder a home page can take upwards of ten seconds to load. And, with independent research studies from the likes of Forrester, Gartner and Compuware asserting that customers will accept no longer than three seconds to load a page, and organisations like Amazon saying that any drop in page load speed has a huge impact on conversion rates, it is no surprise that bounce rates go through the roof.

In fact, the problems go far beyond slow page loading. The mobile customer’s journey from browse to checkout is fundamentally different to the desktop customer journey.

The mobile shopping experience is often more about task driven “shopping with intent” than a long, engaged brand experience; it is about a short, sharp, efficient browse to purchase experience – and the mobile site should reflect that difference through every aspect of the navigation right through to a simplified check-out process.

Retail innovators

So why is that not happening? Why are so many web developers still committed to responsive design despite its clear limitations when it comes to mCommerce – especially when this attitude flies in the face of the approaches being adopted by the most successful retailers?

Take a look at retailers offering the top-rated mobile experience, such as House of Fraser, and the majority have been developed for purpose to reflect the specific needs of not only the mobile device but, just as critically, the mobile customer journey.

The remainder, by the way, are highly expensive and highly engineered responsive design solutions that are a world away from the quick fix models adopted by many web developers.

Clearly this mCommerce-first model is an approach that needs to be rapidly adopted by the rest of the retail community – but where can a CEO turn if the web development team is still determined to pursue the responsive approach?

In a market where desktop still dominates revenue for the majority of retailers – even if traffic is predominantly mobile – it is tough to assess just how investment should be allocated to the mobile site.

CEOs are also justifiably concerned about the impact on sales of diverting resources from the established desktop environment. 

One way avoiding that is through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) mCommerce model, which leverages the relevant aspects of the desktop development to automatically populate the customised mobile store.

The pay-as-you-go model could prove popular with organisations that want to minimise up-front investment and directly align cost with mobile activity.

>See also: Retailers struggle to meet omnichannel expectations

The perception that mobile is not a valid sales channel is clearly flawed. Leading retailers are prioritising mobile over desktop for a reason.

These mCommerce first strategies are transforming the customer experience, reinforcing brand values, and, critically, driving up revenues.

Whilst mobile conversions are unlikely to reach the same level as desktop, simply due to the nature of mobile usage, dedicated mobile sites are fundamentally outperforming the rest of the market, with higher basket values and greater overall revenue.

The reality is that more customers now come to a retail business through mobile than any other channel. Mobile is the primary touch point and a bad mobile experience will cause long-term damage to brand perception.

The 40% of retailers not considering mobile right now might just need to think again – and do more than a quick-fix responsive site. 


Sourced from Jim Rudall, MoPowered

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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