With the holiday shopping season upon us, eTailers everywhere are spending time to make sure site visitors have the best experience possible when browsing their sites. Positive shopping experiences result in more conversions, higher AOV (average order values) and return customers. With much of the focus still placed on desktop sites, many online retailers are missing the opportunity to concentrate on tablet and mobile optimized web sites – especially when more than 55% of all U.S. consumers have a smartphone and at least 35% own a tablet, according to Pew Research. As shopping on these devices increases in popularity, eTailers should consider investing more time and effort to improve their site usability, search and navigation to accommodate this shift.

Sales are Soaring

According to eMarketer, retail sales are expected to increase 68 percent from 2013 – 2017, with mobile commerce sales increasing a whopping 125 percent. Combine both smartphone and tablet, and mCommerce sales are expected to rise 38 percent next year. Looking at these numbers, it’s clear that mobile and tablet sites should be regularly looked at and updated along with the desktop version of your site.

Spontaneity leads to more than 80 percent of mobile purchases, and according to Brad Frost, mobile users will do anything and everything desktop users will do, considering ease of use and convenience. More than a quarter of all mobile users will abandon a transaction if a site is not optimized for mobile, with users believing that mobile transactions should be easier than online or in store transactions. Frost also reports that time spent on a mobile device is expected to overtake time spent on desktop this year, and Internet Retailer agrees that mobile devices now surpass desktops in eCommerce.

Tablets are Making Their Presence Known

Here’s some more interesting data from a recent study by Adobe:  tablet users are three times more likely to make a purchase over mobile phone users. They also spend 50 percent more than PC/MAC users, which makes this group worth targeting. Initially, smartphones had the lead over tablets in eCommerce sales, but tablets are estimated to account for more sales this year and will continue to rise at a rapid rate.

Make it Easy for your Customers

Mobile sites should be optimized in a way that puts what the user is looking for right in their hands as quickly and painlessly as possible. Mobile site design should not be too busy or crowded; the layout should be simple and products should be merchandised in a way so that they are quick and easy to find.  Similarly, checkout should be secure and require minimal effort as users do not want to spend time filling out information on such small screens. Overall, mobile should cater to your target audience. For examples and best practices, see our previous blog post on giving your mobile shoppers what they want.

Tablet approach should be different than mobile. Tablet users are known to spend more time on sites interacting and engaging with content and media. In addition to design and layout changes, online retailers should consider including product videos and any other features that users can interact with, as studies show that tablet users will spend more time playing with these features before making a purchase.

eTailers have just a small window of opportunity to compel the user to make a purchase. Because of this, site search becomes even more important.  Your site search bar should always be prominently displayed (no matter which interface the user is viewing your site from) and should contain an auto-complete feature for faster searching.

Once your site is all set up, consider letting your users do the merchandising for you with SLI’s patented advanced search technology, Learning Search for Mobile. Learning Search watches your website’s user behavior, and automatically re-ranks your products based on user click-through rates. The faster a user can find what they are looking for, the more likely they’ll be checking out with gifts for loved ones this holiday season.

Jeff Holt is a Customer Success Manager for SLI Systems. For further product insight contact him at jeff.holt@sli-systems.com.