With the majority of mcommerce occurring on mobile websites, retailers have turned their attention toward better optimizing those sites. A survey of 100 US retailers by eTail and WBR Digital found that 59% of respondents had put a high priority on improving their mobile web and mcommerce efforts. Drilling a bit further down, 35% listed responsive design—web design that adapts to fit whichever screen renders it—as a high priority.
eMarketer estimates that US retail mobile commerce sales will approach $77 billion in 2015, up 32.2% from 2014. This growth will push mcommerce’s share of ecommerce up to 22.0%. By 2019, mcommerce sales will have doubled to $153.50 billion, according to a new eMarketer report, “US Mcommerce 2015: eMarketer’s Forecast and Trends.”
Consumers experiencing a mobile-optimized site tend to more readily convert. “I would say that what really unleashed the device from a revenue perspective is when we made the move to responsive design,” said Erik Lautier, executive vice president and chief digital officer at fashion retailer bebe.
Among the top 10,000 websites, the percentage of responsive websites grew from 10.8% to 18.7% between November 2013 and October 2014, according to the Guy’s Pod blog run by Guy Podjarny, Akamai’s CTO for web performance. Google’s April 2015 announcement that it will lower the rankings of websites that aren’t mobile-optimized will undoubtedly put additional pressure on lagging companies.
However, responsive design leads to slower load times. According to Chris Mason, CEO and founder of Branding Brand, the average page size has increased by 70% in the past two years among mobile commerce platform’s primarily retail client base. That increase in page weight has had a predictable impact on consumer satisfaction.
Further, in an October 2014 survey of 1,000 US consumers by Mobiquity, 42% of respondents listed slow load times as their major complaint when it came to mobile shopping.
Although improvements in smartphones and networks should address some of these issues, retailers can solve and improve performance with various server side solutions that determine not only what to load, but when. “A lot of the speed implication that slows down a mobile site happens after times of first byte,” said Laurent Meynier, vice president of strategic operations at mobile platform Moovweb. “[Retailers can] build the site so that the perceived speed is there, because you’re not waiting for the whole payload to load before the user can have an interaction with the mobile device. That has huge implications on conversion rate.”
All of these design and performance improvements come with a major caveat: As tactics, they are secondary to understanding the needs of the consumer and the goals of the site. “If somebody is on a tablet, that experience just can’t be a smaller version of my desktop,” said Don Delzell, director of online sales at Sports Chalet. Similarly, he said: “Smartphones are a completely different part of the customer purchase journey and need to be addressed in a way that optimizes what that customer is doing and what they’re using the device for—as opposed to shoving a version of my site in front of them. Responsive design is great … but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.”