Booming online sales are creating a smoke screen for a continually poor mobile shopping experience and retailers need to act now or pay the price, says Sherine El Tarahony, Business and Innovation Manager at parcelLab.

Online retailers have never had it so good! While traditional physical retailers continue to struggle to draw customers into their stores, online shopping has never been so popular. This is particularly the case via mobile, which will deliver 68% of all ecommerce traffic this season, an all-time high, which reflects 19% year-on-year growth, according to Walker Sands research for Salesforce.

However, there are signs that complacency might be creeping in, with online retailers resting on their laurels when it comes to the mobile shopping experience. Two-thirds of European consumers believe it has not improved over the past year, according to Adobe research, which is the same response the study received in 2017. That’s mobile consumer discontent for two years running.

But is this really a problem? Consumers are never happy, right? And where else are they going to shop? Certainly not back on the high street!

Well, they may still ‘buy’ online through their mobile, but shoppers are increasingly turning to mobile social media to research for bargains first. So they are not actually ‘shopping’ on their favourite online retailer sites, simply clicking to buy via a social channel. And this is just as likely to be directly from a brand than a retailer. Almost a third of European shoppers are now doing this, according to Adobe.

This indicates that people are disengaging from online retailers via their smartphones due to the poor shopping experience they are encountering, with one in six now finding it ‘stressful’ to shop on mobile.

With ecommerce traffic increasingly coming via mobile, this could be seen as a crisis. Having wooed shoppers away from the High Street with convenience, choice and value, online retailers seem to have ignored the race to mobile, or failed to get to grips with the fact that smartphones demand a very different approach to PCs, laptops and tablets.

It’s imperative they review the mobile shopping experience they are delivering to consumers and fast. Plus those that do it the fastest will win the mobile race over their rivals. So where should they start?

Asking their own customers directly how they think their mobile shopping experience could be improved should really be the first thing to do. They should have an up-to-date customer database at their fingertips, so what better than to carry out their own research to find out the specific things their customers are looking for – or finding stressful! Then they need to act quickly on the findings.

To ensure they stay on track, online retailers should go through this process regularly. Incentives to engendering a response could be a discount on their next purchase, for example. And a great time to do this is during the post-purchase phase when customers are used to getting emails and texts informing them of the progress of their order and are much more receptive. In fact, research shows emails at this time achieve 70-80% opening rates.

While waiting for their research results, here are some quick checks online retailers can carry out to improve the m-commerce experience for customers…

  1. Keep things simple

Make each page readable and visually simple – don’t try to squeeze in everything that’s on your desktop site pages, but rather design for a small screen.

  1. Put the customer in control

Your first page and landing pages that visitors may access from outside your site should have clear signposts to tell people what they need to know and direct them where they want to go quickly.

  1. Go with the scroll

The layout of popular social media channels mean that people have got used to being able to scroll down through content. So make sure your site enables visitors to do this, say through product categories, and then through individual products, with a filter option so they can narrow down their choices quickly.

  1. Watch your image sizes

Images are a vital part of your webshop, and you should use as many as possible to provide shoppers with all the visual information they need to make a well informed purchase. This makes it essential to ensure they are not too big. Mobile phones don’t always have the best data connection and big images can mean slow loading pages which can be a huge turn off for customers.

  1. Make it easy to review

When browsing, customers will want to compare and contrast products, so make it easy for them to access ones they’ve previously viewed.

  1. Think touchscreen

Remember that the active elements on your site pages need to be big enough for visitors to touch easily with their fingers – anything too fiddly will put customers off.

  1. Don’t forget post-purchase

Ensure the mobile experience doesn’t end at the checkout. Make sure post-purchase communications are also mobile friendly and styled like your mobile site for ease of use, continuity and consistency of message.

Originally published NetImperative | 21 January 2019