Why Your Mobile Site Isn’t Converting

Why Your Mobile Site Isn’t Converting
July 23, 2019 Gabe Harris
Hand holding smartphone

The Takeover

It’s happened, smartphones have taken over. Mobile devices are no longer an emerging trend nor a potential untapped source of traffic, but an undeniable force in eCommerce. Of course numbers vary by industry and brand demographics, but according to the Wolfgang KPI Report for 2019 mobile traffic has blown past desktop traffic (even more so for retail sites.) AND revenue on mobile devices rose 23% in the past year, to 32% of total revenue. It’s cliche to talk about how people are always on their phones, but when it comes to website visitors, people are getting closer to being “always” on their phones.

Mobile device hardware and software has made browsing easier, faster, and more convenient than ever. Constantly improving wireless networks have boosted speeds well beyond what desktop connection speeds were when eCommerce was in its infancy. Web technology standards for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript have been tweaked and adjusted to accommodate smartphones, enabling developers to deliver richer experiences to mobile users, sometimes to the degree that the mobile experience surpasses the desktop experience.

The Numbers

Do you know your conversion rates? On desktop? And mobile? Reported “average” conversion rate numbers in the U.S. hover around 2-2.5%. We’re seeing reports showing desktop conversion rates averaging around 3.8% and mobile conversion rates at about 2%. That’s barely over half of desktop conversion rates! If we do a little math we can pretty quickly translate this into dollars.

Say our monthly mobile traffic of 100,000 visitors with an average order value of $100 converts at 2%. We’re making $200,000 of revenue from our mobile site every month. Now, what if we improve the conversion rate to 2.25%? Revenue jumps to $225,000 a month. That’s an extra $300,000 a year!

Now do I have your attention? 

But why isn’t your site converting?

There are lots of reasons mobile sites do not convert, not just compared to their desktop cousins, but overall. Different brands with different demographics of course face different challenges, but there are some patterns that apply across the board.  The following list accounts for some of the biggest problems mobile sites have with converting visitors to buyers:

  1. It’s broken
  2. It’s unpleasant
  3. No one cares

Let’s break down each of those blockers to determine their root causes.

It’s broken

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Mobile devices and networks have some limitations their desktop brethren do not. Less real estate, lower connection speeds, and decreased computing power all contribute to slower performance on a mobile device, sometimes to the point that sites become unusable. Brands and developers have adopted a mobile first strategy in recent years, meaning they design and build for mobile devices before enhancing or improving the design and code for desktop devices. Unfortunately retro fitting existing sites is much more difficult, and a complete redesign is often cost or time prohibitive.

Mobile devices have different accessibility issues than desktops. For example—if links and buttons are too small users may not be able to click on them. Sometimes content that fits on a desktop screen moves and shifts on smaller screens and ends up covering calls to action or elements critical to user interaction. If text doesn’t scale properly, words can shrink and become unreadable. If the site doesn’t respond properly by making visual elements, text, and interactive elements fit on the smaller screen, it could literally be impossible for users to make purchases from their phones.

The code, particularly JavaScript, HTML, and CSS, written for websites can react completely differently on mobile devices than it does on desktop devices. Sometimes code references elements that may not exist on phones. Maybe clicking a button or icon triggers an event to expand a section of content. If that button/icon is hidden on smaller devices due to size constraints, the ability to expand that content is lost. Very often visual elements are moved into and out of view based on user interactions, like a subcategory menu on a site’s main navigation. If hovering over categories expands a their subcategory menus on desktop, developers have to take care to account for a similar interaction on mobile (like a tap instead of a hover) and code accordingly.

Are technical problems preventing users from making purchases on your site?

It’s unpleasant

This ties in to being broken, but from a less technical perspective. Sometimes it’s completely possible for users to make a purchase, but the experience is so frustrating they leave and make the purchase elsewhere. Extremely important factors in user experience are page and interactivity speed, prototypical layouts and interactions, and easy to use forms. Users have a set amount of trust and patience when they get to your site, and anything that doesn’t go smoothly depletes those levels. When those levels hit a minimum threshold, the user leaves without buying.

Metrics used to measure site speed include two aspects—first, the actual time it takes for the device to get all of the resources necessary to draw a web page, and second, the time it takes for those assets to become visible and usable. Things like animations requiring more processing speed may be “janky” on mobile devices and not execute as quickly or smoothly, or interactions may take longer to trigger events. Your site could work flawlessly once it loads and users can interact, but if either or those, or the combination of both, takes too long—users lose patience. The technical aspects of the site are critically important to making it load and become usable as quickly as possible. The total file size of assets, layout and rendering of elements, and the time it takes the browser to execute scripts all have a big impact on site speed and performance.

Does your site have a hamburger nav? Do you have a site search? Does your listing page allow filtering and sorting? How do users add items to their bag on the detail page? These elements and their positions on the page are critical—users expect you to have them and they expect to be in the “normal” places. If the vast majority of a user’s experience with eCommerce sites means repeatedly finding the most important functional elements in specific places—keep them there on your site! Standing out can be great for your brand, but not at the expense of losing revenue.

Lastly—forms. Forms are a necessary evil, especially during checkout, so please, please, please make them easy to use! Eliminate as many unnecessary fields as possible, less is way more for a mobile form. Make sure the fields are large enough for people to click into and edit. If there is any information you can pre-fill based on what you already know about the customer, do it, and don’t block the browser’s auto-fill functionality unless absolutely necessary. Radio buttons are better than drop downs when there are fewer choices. Use the correct input types for the data you are collecting. People hate forms, ease the pain as much as possible!

Do visitors enjoy using your site, or do they get frustrated?

No one cares

It’s OK, most people don’t care about most sites, don’t beat yourself up. The trick is getting your visitors to care about your site once they get there. Statistics prove time and again that repeat visitors convert at significantly higher rates than first-timers. Getting people to engage with your site and become repeat visitors is, to a degree, related to providing a technically functioning website that is pleasant to use: you must succeed at that before getting deep engagement and repeat visitors. If your visitors are happy, they come back, and those levels of trust and patience mentioned earlier can actually increase. If your visitors care more, they’ll engage more, and eventually buy more.

Is your content compelling? Buyers want details, they want to know what they are buying. Show them pictures of the product from every relevant angle. Describe it in great detail, especially any nuances about it that set it apart. Does the voice and tone of your content match the conversation style of your visitors? Use the same language that visitors use and hear on a regular basis so they feel comfortable with your brand. Content is king, make sure the most important content is visible on your mobile site.

How about your calls to action, are they getting “clicks” (taps really, since we’re talking about touch screens here)? Using psychological tactics to get people to react can help to a degree, but is it clear how taking that action will benefit the visitor? Smartphones feed the desire for instant gratification, make sure visitors understand the value of taking the next steps and continuing down your funnel. Creating a sense of urgency or an easy purchasing process can be more effective on smartphones since visitors may be dealing with more time constraints than they would on a desktop. Focus on micro-conversions like email signups, account creation, and social network engagements to increase the chances that a visitor will return. Don’t ignore smaller calls to action on secondary pages for creating long term relationships.

Following up with visitors is imperative on mobile devices. Marketing emails should look good on mobile devices. Re-targeting strategies and ad campaigns are crucial to driving visitors back to the site. Are your campaigns are getting seen, and are they sending relevant traffic? Take advantage of device capabilities, if creating an app makes sense for your brand, create an app. Messaging apps from social platforms are widely adopted on mobile devices, use things like Facebook Messenger to interact with your visitors. Every time they come back to your site their chance of converting increases.

Are you convincing people to care about your products?

Next Steps

Knowing why your mobile site isn’t converting is meaningless if you don’t apply that knowledge. Every sign imaginable suggests smartphones are going to continue to carve out chunks of eCommerce revenue. While it would be very surprising to see conversion rates on mobile devices eclipse desktop conversion rates in the near future, why can’t we start  moving the needle now? Do any of the issues covered here describe your mobile site? Do a lot of these issues look familiar?

Like so much of our industry, there’s no cookie-cutter solution guaranteed to work for everyone. You have to analyze your data, get to know your customer base, and constantly refine your site. Technologies and devices evolve, audiences and products vary—make sure you have the tools and resources to get the most out of every visitor. Let’s start using your mobile site to grow your revenue. Schedule a free site audit with our team of experts—we will review your site from top to bottom and identify pain points that are killing your conversions and stifling sales.

Schedule a Free Site Audit

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