October 3, 2013, 3:09 PM

Special Report: Keys to mobile marketing success

Putting mobile shoppers on the path to purchase.

Now that consumers' love affair with their mobile devices has pushed m-commerce into the mainstream—48% of consumers' time spent on retail web sites in March was on mobile devices, according to comScore Inc.—retailers need to invest in converting those visitors into buyers.

Since mobile shoppers typically want to complete their purchases quickly and easily, having a streamlined web site can help retailers boost conversion rates.

There are several ways retailers can design their web sites to better meet the needs of mobile shoppers. These include reducing the amount of information asked of mobile consumers at checkout and personalizing what shoppers see according to their browsing behaviors. Retailers can also program sites to automatically adjust to the size of mobile device screens so consumers visiting sites have a better overall user experience.

One way to expedite checkout is to collect only the bare minimum amount of information needed to complete the sale. It's not uncommon for smartphone users to become frustrated after making data entry errors on tiny touchscreen keyboards and abandon the purchase. Asking shoppers for less data limits the amount of typing they must do.

"Mobile shoppers prefer to get on and off a web site quickly, so making the process of completing checkout faster fits for their needs," says Tim Ahlenius, senior strategist for web site design firm Americaneagle.com. "Asking a mobile shopper to create an account or user profile at checkout only adds to the time it takes to complete a transaction."

Retailers can also offer consumers the option to store their billing and shipping information so the retailer can then autofill that information on the checkout page during future purchase sessions, he adds.

Site analytics can help retailers boost conversions by identifying the type of products a shopper is viewing. Retailers can use that information to create messaging around those product categories or brands. "A shopper that views women's clothing would then see marketing messages targeted to that category as she moves through the site or returns to the site," Ahlenius says.

Another way retailers can boost conversions is by having a pleasing site design that renders well across mobile devices. Responsive design is a design approach that uses a single code base to automatically resize content and image resolution to fit the screen on the device accessing the web site. The technique delivers a better shopping experience for mobile users by minimizing the need to scroll or pan across a mobile device's screen to view content, and it spares retailers from having to maintain one web site for shoppers using personal computers and another for those using smartphones or tablets.

The ability to adjust content to the device makes it possible for retailers to customize content for tablet and smartphone users. For example, a web site built using responsive design can be programmed to include more images per page when a tablet user accesses the site and fewer when a smartphone user visits because tablets have larger screens that can accommodate more images per page than smartphones. An easier, more usable site design makes it more likely shoppers will find what they want and be pleased with the shopping experience, and thus more likely to convert.

Even if retailers don't achieve the conversion rates they want from mobile users, they should not be fooled into thinking their mobile site is not generating sales. "A shopper may first come to a retailer's web site through a mobile device, then complete the sale through another channel, which means the mobile site assisted in that sale," Ahlenius says. "Mobile is part of a multichannel shopping experience and it is here to stay."

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