Mobile technology can do stuff today what science fiction didn’t even dream up just a decade ago. From being able to print 3D objects straight from your mobile to detonating IEDs to designing outfits for yourself for that special date night, there seems to be virtually nothing mobile apps cannot do.
Shopping seems to be almost child’s play in comparison. However, since we all love to shop and since many of us love to sell even more, why not figure out what makes shoppers go crazy when they browse through a mobile site?
Without further ado, let’s get down to understanding a mobile commerce site drool worthy for a shopaholic like me. 🙂
1. Responsive Website
A website can be accessed by users on their mobile phones in a readable, user friendly manner if the website owner adopts one of these three forms of serving up the site:
a. Responsive design, where the same HTML and CSS adapt themselves for different screen sizes based on the type of device used to access the site. The URLs for mobile and desktop sites remain the same.
b. Dynamic Serving of URLs based on device type. In this case, there exists a desktop version of the site and a completely different mobile version of the site. Depending on the device being used, the appropriate version of HTML is served up. Here again, the URLs remain the same for both mobile and desktop sites.
c. Exclusive Mobile-Only URLs are created that follow the format of “m.websitename.com” which are completely different from the pages hosted on www.websitename.com.
By its own admission, Google favors responsive web design as it is more user friendly, scalable and easier to SEO than two different sets of URLs. If Google wants it, give it to them. You’ll only stand to gain from it.
2. Build Your Own Mobile App and Nurture it
Over 80% of users spend their time inside mobile apps when they access the internet on their smartphones. According to TheNextWeb, retail apps account for 27% of a user’s time on a smartphone.
The writing on the wall is clear. Users are going mobile first today. The web is accessed more often via mobile than via desktops. Finally, mobile apps is where all the real action is. Get yourself a slice of this action by building a mobile app for your e-commerce brand. Grow it and make it popular by investing in advertising, mobile SEO and social media.
3. Promote Mobile Commerce to Online Customers
We all know that it is easier to sell something to an existing customer than to convert a brand new visitor to our site into a customer. The whole idea of customer retention is based on this single undeniable insight.
Use this profound insight to drive traffic to your mCommerce site (site or app, as the case may be). Inform your existing online customers about your new mCommerce site via emails, social media or your site itself. Encourage them to look around and offer them incentives to shop via mobile. No need to spend big monies on getting traffic to your mCommerce site, when your e-commerce customers will happily oblige!
4. Simple Layout
A small screen comes with its inherent set of limitations. Besides the obvious lack of real estate, the touch functionality in all smartphones is not comparable and bad touchscreens can be a deterrent to users against exploring a complicated looking mCommerce site. Besides, the more complicated your site design is, the heavier your site will end up being.
Try and drop the fluff and stick to a simple and intuitive layout for your mobile site. This means no moving carousels, minimize the banners that dot your website and keep the clickable elements per page to as low as possible.
Make sure your Call to Action is prominent and the buttons are adequately large to prevent fat-finger syndrome from striking users cold.
5. White Space
Continuing the thought we just discussed, space on a mobile device screen is at a premium. However, this does not mean cramming as many features as possible into this tiny space so your users can enjoy everything.
The answer to a small screen is to simplify (as discussed above) and to offer enough breathing space for users to navigate freely around your site. More white space could mean toning down the features of your site. If it comes to that, sacrifice some of the bells and whistles from your desktop site in favor of usability.
Nagaraj Nagabhushanam offers some sage advice on mobile commerce layouts. He recommends keeping the touch elements at 7×7 mm size visually, while maintaining the separators between touch elements at 2×2 mm size.
6. Minimal Fields in Forms, Keep Checkout Processes Short
If fat fingers are a problem while clicking buttons, imagine how much tougher it would be to fill out an endless form that leads to your checkout page.
Minimize your users’ misery by making your forms short and to the point. Ask only that information which you will reasonably be using. Data collection and knowing your customer inside out will happen over a period of time. A mind-numbingly long checkout form is not the answer.
Another point to keep in mind when optimizing your mCommerce site is to ensure there are no pop ups, ads or any other kind of distraction to take the customer away from the checkout process. Your checkout process is your flypaper. Make sure you don’t allow random sawdust to minimize the stickiness of this step.
7. Avoid Dropdown Menus
Your website may have extensive product categories and sub categories to pick from. Chances are, they are laid out in the form of a menu bar across the length of your site with each product categories opening up into a drop down menu of its own with dozens of sub—categories.
This may be possible to pull off – aesthetically and from a conversions perspective – on desktop sites. However, when it comes to a mobile site, you don’t have the luxury of multiple drop down menus that expand into further sub categories. Instead go with a sandwich icon in place of your horizontal menu bar. Let the categories open up when the user hovers over the sandwich menu icon. Instead of dropdown menus from each product category, opt to hide the sub categories in nested sections that will reveal themselves when individual categories are expanded. Why not dropdown menus? Because a number of dropdown menus go ‘beyond’ the screen on small mobile devices, making the entire experience of scrolling up and down while keeping the drop down menu open a real pain in the wrong place.
8. Ditch Flash, Not Just on Mobile
Mobile users are already under a lot of stress just being able to read the font on your website and find their way around various product categories and sub categories. By adding flash elements to our mCommerce sites, we are inadvertently upping the ante from a usability perspective.
The problem is not faced by iPhone users alone. Users who access your site from a Mac don’t get to see your fancy flash animations either. Talk about wasted effort and time.
In Google’s own words, HTML5 is a far better tool to create and showcase your interactive designs on your website. “For animated content rendered using Flash or other multimedia players, consider using HTML5 animations that work across all web browsers. Google Web Designer makes it easy to create these animations in HTML5.”
9. Prominent Search Function
Nearly every e-commerce site is defined by the large variety of products that they have on offer. As we saw in the last section, navigating through various product categories and sub-categories can be quite a challenge on a mobile device.
To overcome this basic issue of usability, introduce a clearly visible and easily locate-able search function on your mCommerce site. This way, even if your navigation is the pits, users will still be able to find what they came looking for. Make sure you enable autocomplete and autosuggest options in your search function. With a keyboard as tiny as smartphones have, it’s far easier to tap than type.
Offer your users the option of paying by a variety of payment modes – PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Venmo, payments via QR codes etc. – which minimize the user’s exposure to your mobile app. These mobile wallets have heightened security standards (SSL ) that are at par with banking websites. They are linked to a user’s credit card or bank account from which they debit the exact amount that the user owes an mCommerce site like yours and transfers the money directly into your account without revealing any financial information belonging to the user.
10. Set up the Option Allowing Guest Checkouts
If there’s one characteristic that runs across the entire smartphone generation, it’s the fact that they all seem to be in a huge hurry. By forcing users to register themselves on your site by filling out lengthy forms and answering umpteen questions, all you really succeed in doing is putting a big hurdle between the user and completion of your sale. A large chunk of users drop off right at this juncture on being asked to register before completing the checkout process.
Do yourself a favor and allow your users the option of guest checkout. It’s not just quicker, it’s also a lot less painful for your users.
11. Mobile Social Ads
Over two-thirds of all social media users access their social media accounts via mobile devices on a regular basis. This figure, combined with the impressive number of mobile web users in the world, and you have a recipe perfect for mobile ads on social media.
Studies show the growing contribution of social media to overall site traffic in the last one year. Facebook, the Big Daddy of social media made more revenues from mobile ads than from its regular desktop ads. All of these data points mean the same thing – invest your marketing budget in mobile social media ads to reach your users exactly where they like to spend time.
12. Geo-Targeted Offers
A mobile phone goes to the ends of the world and back with its user. mCommerce needs to understand and harness the unique mobility of the mCommerce user and target them with communication based on where they are and what they are doing, in order to maximize message effectiveness.
Use the geo-targeting option in your mobile site to identify where a user is logged in from. Based on the user’s current location, serve him limited period offers and discounts that can only be used in the geographical location that he is in. This way, your communication is more relevant and the user’s interest is stoked by a simple, yet effective marketing tactic.
The mobile juggernaut is on the move with no signs of slowing down any time soon. Mobile accounted for 21% of e-commerce sales in 2014, according to the Internet Retailer Mobile 500 report. Larger retailers enjoy an even bigger chunk of mobile sales – clocking in at an average of 23%.
In the case of technology behemoths like Apple and Google Pay, the mobile effect is even more pronounced with mobile sales stood at over 56% and 80% respectively in the previous year.
If the biggest and the best have already embraced mobile commerce wholeheartedly, isn’t it time your site took the plunge as well?