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February 5, 2016

Mobile Conversion Success – It’s a Work in Progress

Image courtesy of (adamr)/

It used to be so easy. A retailer opened a store; she/he advertised on the radio, in the newspaper and, if there was enough money in the budget, on TV. Customers came into the store – some bought, some did not. To boost sales, the retailer advertised a sale. If the store had what people wanted and the price was right, the customer base grew. Over time, relationships were built between the retailer and customers and the “brand” came to be associated with good things.

Now, all of that face-to-face contact and print ads in newspapers and the Yellow Pages are in the past. In this new digital age, where marketing efforts and sales strategies are completely changing the landscape of online retail, we are still struggling with how to accomplish what those traditional retailers did. Here’s why:

Along Came eCommerce

After 20 years of eCommerce, we still don’t seem to have this whole retails sales thing down. Part of the problem is that we are still looking at it as traditional retail and trying to apply the same processes. Certainly there is nothing wrong with running sales, establishing brand recognition, and developing relationships with visitors and customers, but there are wholly different aspects to retailing and to the customer’s retail experience. Customers and retailers worry about personal and financial security. Retailers in particular have to deal with the reality that a customer can move to another retailer within the same niche with a couple of clicks. And now, as designers and marketers are just getting the “hang” of the environment, the parameters change again.

Along Came Mobile Devices with a Split Personality

Just as we were getting used to the PC retail environment, mobile devices change everything about how consumers research and shop. As we look at the mobile device environment and how we can design and appeal to get the sales, we have to accept the fact that there are really two mobile device markets – tablets and phones. And people shop differently on these two devices. In fact, the following two charts demonstrate both traffic and conversions across all three platforms:



The important piece of information from these charts is that, while they lag behind in sales, phones lead tablets in traffic on eCommerce sites. This tells us that shoppers are doing research on their phones, they just aren’t buying. Why? Because we are not giving them a use experience that is simple, seamless and easy. In short, our retail sites are not optimized for mobile use. We are still “stuck” in the PC environment.

Customers are still buying on PCs overwhelmingly, but over the past four years, these are the trends for tablet and phones:

• From 2012-2015, eCommerce sales on tablets grew by almost 400 percent;

• From 2012-2015, eCommerce sales on phones only doubled;

• And in terms of total conversion rates? Tablets are about 200 percent higher than phones.

So, if you are going to be developing a revised strategy for conversion on mobile devices, you are going to have to divide that strategy by tablets and phones, especially in content design. Remember, your tablet customers can do less than on a PC, but much more than mobile phone users can do.

How Do You Position Yourself for Increased Conversions via Mobile?

There are several suggestions from the experts that everyone should study and consider implementing, if mobile conversions are an organizational goal (and they should be).

Tracking Traffic that Leads to Conversions: 

The same analytics that you use for PC users, you must also use for your mobile site visitors – who are they (mobile report), what are they looking for (keyword report) and are they finding what they are looking for (bounce rates, time on page)? You can do all of these things through Google Analytics, if you know what reports to ask for. Here are the things you can discover through analytics/metrics:

1. Visitors: What percent of your site visitors are on mobile devices? If it’s low, you need to make your mobile site a bigger priority in terms of design, because the trend is in this direction. If you have used responsive design and it is not generating visitors, then perhaps it is time to re-configure an entirely different design for your mobile site. Get a design pro, tell him/her exactly what you want your visitor to do on your mobile site/app and get it designed right. (Note: Keep your colors, logo, etc. the same).

2. Keywords: Analytics will tell you if mobile users are using the same keywords to find you as PC users. If they are the same, fine. If they are not, then re-design your mobile site to accommodate that.

3. Bounce Rates: Use Google’s data in “Traffic Sources – Overview Report” to determine bounce rates. If they are high, your visitors are not finding what they are looking for. You need to know where they are bouncing from, re-design things and user-test the heck out of every change. Check bounce rates often.

4. Conversions: Are you getting the conversions you want? Do you want registrations, shares, purchases or all three? Google Analytics will tell you through a “Goal Path Report.”

5. Site Speed: There is a “Site Speed Report.” And, you can test your mobile site with “Google Page Speed Insights” and you will get recommendations for cutting down load times.

6. Goal Flow: This is another great Google report (Conversion – Goals – Goal Flow) that will show you if there are any steps in the conversion process that are causing roadblocks for your mobile user.

To set up all of these report capabilities, you will need to do some careful research or find a design expert who can do this for you.

The other thing you need to understand is that with all of the analytics and metrics, you can’t really tell where a conversion began. For example, someone goes into a store, sees something she/he likes, gets on a phone and compares prices and then ultimately makes a purchase in the store or online later from another device. If that research began via phone and the purchase was not made via phone, there is no conversion data provided by phone. While you cannot track a lot of this, you can get a better idea if you use Google forwarding phone number tracking or a coupon/discount code that is only present on one platform, and that will help tell you where your customers are originating.

Figure Out What You Want the User to Do and Get Rid of Everything Else: 

You know your business better than anyone else. You know what conversions you want from PC devices. Now, you must decide which of those are important for your mobile users. And you must decide how to get them with as little work as possible on the part of the user. You do need a good designer for this, so that every operation is as seamless as possible. When people have to swipe to keep reading and get to a CTA button, they will bounce. When buttons are too small or they have to type in too much information, they will bounce. For example, registration forms on a PC may ask for more than a mobile user wants to take the time to give.

Simplify everything. Give your mobile customer very few tasks – provide an e-mail address to get something, look at a new product, make a reservation, find your locations and, of course, easily purchase something. Restaurants, hotels, airlines, and car rental companies do a great job of this.


No more than two clicks should be required to do anything on a mobile site or app, and that includes purchasing.

Offer Customers the Option to Make their Purchases on Another Device: 

Cross-channel personalization is one of the newer concepts in marketing, but one that customers appreciate and that has the potential to really increase conversions. Most users have a rather complex buying journey. They may search on their phones, and end up purchasing the product on a tablet or PC. Cross-channel personalization allows that customer to save items in a shopping cart or a wish list on one device and pick them up later. These new tools also allow retailers to re-target on multiple devices depending upon what a visitor has looked at before. Oracle has a number of products and tools for this, as do many other data management systems.

Develop your mobile sites first or separately from you PC landing page: 

This means you have to figure out what your mobile customers will do most and then give them the opportunity to do that. This is where Google Analytics comes in again. Use the data to determine what your mobile users are doing when they access your site and design the mobile sites for tablets and phones separately, based upon those analytics. Take a look at Amazon’s three pages.

PC Landing Page:


Tablet – less to do:


Phone – even less:


As you can see, Amazon has figured out that people who use their mobile devices probably search more than anything else. For that reason, the search bar is prominent and good-sized. But the user does have the option to shop by department, access his/her wish list from other devices, and look for deals. And the user can add things to his/her cart or wish list and pick those up later on another device. And because Amazon saves account holders payment information, purchases are made without the need to enter all of that credit card information.

Most mobile searching is actually local

If a mobile phone accesses your site, do the same thing as if that potential customer is in your store. Some research says they are probably within five miles of your store. As your site is accessed, offer an immediate savings or coupon. You may be able to get an instant conversion if they are close by.

Speed Up Checkout: 

Give multiple options and make sure you add PayPal – one-third of all online shoppers use it now, because it is safer than a credit card and much easier when all they have to do is put in their e-mail address and password.

Make E-mail Capturing Easy: 

Be certain that your form fields are plenty large, as well as your buttons. Eliminate typing as much as possible, using drop downs instead for as much as possible. In fact, use drop-downs as much as possible for everything. Look back at the Hertz mobile app and see how many drop-downs are on that page.

The interesting thing about e-mails is they comprise one area of marketing that you can actually control. You cannot control who shares your content; you cannot control what people do on your site – you can only try to influence. If you have e-mail addresses, however, you can control getting stuff out to customers and potential customers and you can control when that happens. We do know that mobile customers do four things on their devices – they research, they access their social media, they watch video, and they read their e-mails. If you have truly engaging subject lines and great information or offers, you would do well to e-mail often.

Speaking of Video: 

Use video as much as possible to deliver great content. But be certain that it loads quickly and well. Every user experience on their mobile devices should be seamless, crisp, and clean. This is what is meant by the now-popular term, “frictionless.”

Obviously, the key to conversions via mobile is to have a design team that is clearly extraordinary, fully expert, and that can set up Google Analytics to provide the key data to enhance the user experience on all devices. The other key is user-testing, and that has to happen all the time.

What suggestions do you have for mobile conversion improvement? Be sure to leave your comments and ideas here.


John Unger is a U.K. native who lives in Boston. He writes for his personal educational blog and contributes to different websites. He is interested in business and marketing issues and mainly covers these topics in his articles. He hopes his writing inspires and helps his readers. Get in touch with him via Twitter: @johnungerr.