The following is a guest post from Swiftype – a leading provider of powerful search experiences for ecommerce websites and more. For more information, visit their website at swiftype.com
Regardless of where you look for statistics on ecommerce, one trend is clear: the mobile shopper is on the rise. In their annual benchmark report from earlier this year, IBM reported more than a 25% year over year increase in mobile traffic and sales during the 2014 holiday season. Perhaps more surprisingly, Internet Retailer’s Mobile 500 guide reported that, “even when you factor in consumers who use multiple devices to shop online and consumers who only shop online via desktops, more than 60% of time spent with online retail occurs on mobile devices.”
In the face of these dramatic statistics, several questions remain. First, what is driving this shift to mobile shopping? Second, how should ecommerce store owners prepare their stores for mobile shoppers? And third, what elements of the user experience are most important for mobile shoppers?
Why mobile, why now?
Many articles have surfaced in the past year citing a host of statistics that demonstrate the ongoing rise of mobile shopping, but very few have attempted to identify the underlying causes of this trend. However, upon some consideration, several concurrent developments seem to be the primary movers behind the rise of mobile. The first and most obvious driver of mobile shopping’s popularity is the ongoing improvement of mobile technology. As smartphones and tablets become faster and more powerful, mobile shopping is becoming less of a “hassle” and has instead become a convenient alternative to the traditional desktop shopping experience. In addition, smartphone ownership continues to increase.
This improving technology runs in parallel with the steady aging of a younger generation that has been raised with smartphones. Many millennial shoppers have been exposed to smartphones and tablets since early high school, and as they enter the market as consumers, mobile shopping is a natural way for them to quickly and efficiently buy the items they want or need.
Preparing for Mobile
Preparing an online store for mobile shoppers is a multi-faceted challenge that requires considerable prioritization and strategy. The primary question site owners confront when considering this issue is: Should I focus my development resources on creating an app or should I focus on redesigning my mobile browsing experience?
While statistics show that 80% of mobile retail occurs within apps, and that conversion rates for shoppers within apps are 30% higher, these statistics need to be viewed through a broader lens. Consider the following data from IBM’s benchmark report, which shows a clear difference between the percentage of smartphone retail traffic and smartphone retail sales.
This data gives us key insight into how online shoppers use their smartphones during the buying process. Online shopping is not a one-stop-shop experience—often shoppers will visit online stores several times on multiple devices before completing a purchase. With this in mind, the divide between smartphone traffic and smartphone sales suggests that smartphones are a preferred tool for browsing and researching products (traffic), while tablets and desktops are preferable for actually completing transactions (sales).
Designing for the Mobile Shopper
Because buyer behavior varies from device to device, UX designers should tailor the shopping experience on each to the specific needs and wants of their users. For mobile shoppers, this means optimizing apps and mobile browsing experiences for research, product browsing, and product comparison.
In this pursuit, a powerful and easy to use search bar is a key tool. The image above is a strong example, with a search bar that is easy to find and provides autocomplete suggestions for users as they type—a feature which is especially helpful for the smaller keyboard on a mobile phone.
Swiftype is a leading provider of powerful search experiences for ecommerce stores, with a search solution that is built for the mobile web from the start. For more information on mobile shopping design, check out the Swiftype blog or visit the Swiftype mobile solutions page for more information.