Mobilegeddon was Just the Beginning: How to Improve Mobile Conversion Rates



When Google announced a big algorithm change to punish websites that weren’t mobile friendly, there was talk of a day of reckoning. “Mobilegeddon” came and went, and indeed, many of the over 40 percent of Fortune 500 websites that are not mobile friendly saw their rankings slip. For the most part, however, the impact was less catastrophic than many feared. One reason was the rush by websites to redesign to mobile-friendly standards ahead of the big day. The other is that Mobilegeddon turned out not to be a cataclysm, but part of an onward shift to a new digital world order, one that increasingly places mobile experience at the center.

What’s Really Scary: The Performance Gap

Most of us understand that a fast, mobile-friendly website is table stakes, but what happens after you’ve gone responsive? For most e-commerce marketers, going mobile hasn’t yielded the substantial increase in revenue they were hoping for. The reason is simple, albeit somewhat complicated to fix. Mobile conversion rates are generally just a fraction of desktop’s. We’ve seen that switching to a mobile-friendly design can double or even triple conversion rates from smartphones—but what if tripling conversion rates still equated to half of desktop’s conversion rate? This can be quite troubling if, like most e-commerce websites, your share of traffic increasingly comes from mobile. If that’s the case, your lower mobile conversion rates will appear to be steadily cannibalizing your higher converting desktop traffic. Consider this report from comScore on Q4 2014 e-commerce performance:

Source: Comscore. Online Shopping Platforms. Time Spent vs. Dollars Spent

Why is this happening?

Even after offering a much more user-friendly experience, mobile conversion rates—and therefore revenue contribution—continue to significantly lag behind desktop’s for a few key reasons: screen size, security and device switching.

Screen Size

Tiny screen sizes make delivering a great e-commerce experience rather difficult. Consider the check-out process. How much more likely are you to enter a credit card pecking away at your phone as you are in front of your desktop computer? Form field after form field, users are signaling (with greater abandonment rates) that they don’t have the same kind of patience on mobile as they do on bigger screens. In fact, there is a direct correlation between the size of a smartphone screen and its conversion rate. The bigger the screen, all the way to phablet (iPhone 6 Plus) and tablet size, the higher the conversion rate. Tablets, for example, convert about as well as desktops across most categories.


Studies by comScore and others also indicate that users are less trusting of smartphone security than they are of desktop security. Accessing content via a public Wi-Fi connection doesn’t offer the same level of comfort necessary for a sale to occur. This could explain why smartphone users purchase products costing much less than desktop users.

Device Switching

With the multitude of devices in our lives, from smartphones, to work laptops and at-home desktops, it’s not surprising that your customers can start their research on one device and end up purchasing on another. We know that mobile is an important touchpoint, especially at the top of the funnel. Google’s “Mobile in the Purchase Journey” reports that 54 percent of shoppers use smartphones to research before making a purchase. If smartphones play a significant role during the initial phase of a customer’s purchase journey, it may not be as troubling if these customers ultimately go on to purchase at their desktop or laptop.

Next Step: Catering to the Mobile Majority

Going mobile-friendly is an important first step in capturing more sales from mobile customers, but it’s not enough to maximize a mobile customer’s revenue value to an e-commerce business. As more sites go “mobile majority,” marketers need to prioritize ways to increase conversion rates and revenue from mobile customers. With that goal in mind, marketers generally need to work on two sets of solutions—making the mobile experience as frictionless as possible and better attributing sales that originated from mobile but were completed on the desktop.

It’s no easy task to make shopping “frictionless” on small devices, but there are ways to remove a few aggravating barriers to a sale. Adopting mobile-friendly payment options such as PayPal or Apple Pay and Android Pay (for brands with native apps) is one solution, as is a more streamlined guest check-out option and features such as persistent shopping cart that remembers and stores the items that were placed in the cart but not yet purchased. You may also want to explore allowing mobile shoppers a chance to pause their shopping on a mobile phone and receive an email of their shopping cart. This way they can click on the link and complete the purchase on any device they choose later in the day.

There’s also much to be said for paring down the mobile user experience instead of directly translating one-for-one from desktop—budget time for the UX team to eliminate unnecessary information, reduce the complexity of filters, increase the size of call to actions and clarify the navigation as much as possible to avoid users feeling “lost” in the check-out process.

Finally, look for ways to implement cross-channel tracking. Begin by implementing the Segments and User ID features in Google Analytics and start to look at sales attribution not from a last-touch basis but through a multi-device purchase journey.

Mobilegeddon was only the beginning. Now the real work begins—creating shopping experiences on smartphones that are as compelling and convenient as on desktops. If social shopping platform Wanelo’s 90 percent mobile traffic is any indication, your e-commerce website’s future depends on it.

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