The stats are in and the message is clear: people are shopping on their smartphones and tablets more and more every day. Mobile commerce in the U.S. is:

Mobile shopping is outpacing desktop shopping; billions of dollars are on the line; and yet smartphone conversion rates remain at an embarrassingly low 1% or less for many retailers. Why? 80% of shoppers say they typically abandon a mobile site if they have a bad user experience (Limelight). To take advantage of this massive opportunity, online retailers need to provide shoppers with an excellent customer experience.

While there are many different ways to address all these different device formats, such as dedicated mobile or tablet sites or even a complete overhaul like Responsive design, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Whichever approach you choose, here are six tips to help you optimize your mobile customer experience:

1. Speed Matters

Nearly half of consumers expect a web page to load in less than two seconds (KISSmetrics). Remember that there is a distinct difference between what a computer calculates as page weight/load time and what a user will consider the page speed. Optimizing web pages for “visually complete” – or the user’s perception of when a page is complete – and optimizing actual page load times will create a better user experience. Tip: Use Google Page Speed Insights for overall comparison and WebPageTest to compare visually.

Image size also matters. Make sure to serve appropriately sized images and remember that even images hidden via CSS for a mobile view will still be downloaded.

  • If using a mobile site, make sure images are sized for that form factor; don’t simply reuse desktop images as they will force users to download excessively large images.
  • If the site is Responsive, make use of client side conditional loading (imager.js) or dynamic image compression (e.g. Akamai’s ION product line) to ensure users aren’t downloading unneeded bytes. Tim Kadlec found that by using a responsive image technique, sites could save up to 72.2% of image weight.

2. Reduce Customer Friction

Conversion rates on average are four to five times higher for people who use on-site search. Additionally, the type of visitors who utilize the search box are showing explicit intent and are more likely to purchase (PFSweb). Mobile users specifically are more likely to use search so make sure your search box is in an obvious place near the top of the page. Tools to ease the on-site searcher’s path-to-purchase include:

  • Rich Auto Complete ­­­­– Ease the pain of typing in search terms on small mobile devices by adding Rich Auto Complete to your search box. Through predictive analysis, this will offer suggested keywords and products as the user is typing the search term. This saves the user time and frustration and is a great way to reduce a customer friction point.
  • Spelling Suggestions – One of the difficulties that come with shopping from a mobile device is that the keyboard may be small or difficult to use, and customers may not be able to type in search words correctly. Account for misspellings or similar words by employing autocorrect or synonym rules. These rules create linkages between words to show the correct products when a word is misspelled or a different term or slang is used. 
  • Reviews & Social Media – Show ratings and reviews with your product results. Provide this social currency on site so users don’t need to leave your site to research products. Also, more shoppers are using social media to get ideas for gifts or find new items they’d like to purchase. Make sure you are catering to your mobile visitors by allowing them to share their favorite products easily among their social networks.

3.  Touch-Enabled Devices

When designing for touch-enabled devices, it’s important to remember the size of the human finger and thumb. The touch target for an index finger is 57 pixels and a thumb is 72 pixels. Making touch targets smaller than these targets can lead to user frustration and incorrect clicks. Moreover, don’t require users to pinch and zoom in order to navigate pages as these actions also lead to a negative user experience.

A very common mistake in mobile development is attempting to port desktop features directly to a mobile device. With a touch-enabled device, the user is not navigating the page with a mouse cursor so keep in mind that functions like hover don’t translate into a positive customer experience. At best, the user will attempt to click the item multiple times to activate the link; at worst, the user will be unable to click through at all. According to Thomas Fuchs, “The easiest way to deal with this is simple: don’t use hover on touch-enabled devices.”

4. Make Checkout Easy

Smart e-commerce companies create as few steps as possible at mobile checkout. When you allow visitors to checkout quickly and easily, they’re more likely to complete the purchase. To speed customers through checkout:

  • Reduce form length (fewer than 6 fields); if multiple steps, show progress
  • Top Align form labels for easy readability while typing
  • Allow guest checkout (to again, “reduce friction”)
  • PayPal/Google Wallet payment options get customers through the process quickly

5. It’s Time to Revolt Against Sliders (on Desktop and Mobile)

There have been numerous studies showing that sliders are useless. Site visitors are highly unlikely to take the time to read each slide or interact with the slider. Notre Dame performed a test with a slider on their homepage, only to find that the first image was the only image to receive interest from visitors (and only 1% of visitors). Take a serious look at your analytics and evaluate whether or not the extra download time and screen real estate is actually providing your customer value or simply satisfying everyone on the committee. Instead of sliders:

  • Show relevant sales items, or personalized offers based on season or geography
  • Show returning customers something based on their shopping affinity or past purchases
  • Avoid banner blindness and focus on what you really want the customer to do

6. Without Testing, You’re Just Guessing

Mobile customer expectations are evolving at a rapid rate so adapting to these ever-changing requirements is critical for success in an extremely competitive e-commerce environment. Performing tests, whether A/B or multivariate, can identify whether a feature can help or hurt your bottom line and is the best means of identifying which tips will best improve your conversion rates.  Looking at what your competitors do and industry best practices are only starting points; you also need to know what your audience responds well to.

To learn more about how to improve conversion rates and increase revenue from your mobile sites and apps, visit