Earlier this year, Google announced that it optimized its algorithm to promote mobile-friendly websites in its organic search results, and for good reason. According to an article published by the company in May, “more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan”. Another recent report by Google also stated that nearly half of all mobile phone users start their research for buying a new product on a mobile search engine. We all knew that this day was coming but maybe some of us did not anticipate how quickly it was going to happen.
After Google revealed the algorithm change that will give mobile-friendly sites priority in search results, a lot of companies (particularly the ones that did not have a mobile version of their websites) dropped everything and started working on a new website design that is optimized for mobile devices. Of course, this is the wise thing to do in today’s digital-focused marketing landscape. However, focusing their efforts in optimizing the search aspect of mobile experience, companies have been neglecting the end of the journey, the transaction stage, where businesses actually convert the leads into paying customers. It seems like companies are putting a lot of effort into optimizing their sites so that they can be indexed and browsed a lot easier on mobile devices but not enough focus on closing sales on these same devices. As a result, mobile add-to-cart and transaction rates are currently much lower than those of desktop computers. This is supported by data from Monetate which suggests that merchants are experiencing a high rate of checkout drop-off and cart abandonment. What this means is users are starting their search online, browsing products and even adding products in their shopping cart. But when it comes to completing the transaction, they prefer to do that when they get to their desktop computers at home, which suggests that the usability of the mobile check-out systems are still not optimal for a start-to-finish purchasing experience. The concern here is the disconnect that results from the time spent between the mobile search and the desktop purchase. Once the users switch to their desktop computers, who knows if they will start their research all over again and perhaps end up on a competitor’s website for the checkout.
As mentioned above, there seems to be a missed opportunity here for businesses to fill in this gap by providing an all-encompassing buying experience on mobile platforms. From a user experience perspective, there are a few issues that need to be addressed when designing a mobile purchasing system. First and foremost, these transactions are likely going to take place in public areas such as busses, restaurants or bars. Places that people may not feel 100% comfortable taking their credit cards out of their pockets and openly start typing the number on their smartphones. Apple mitigates this issues with iCloud Keychain system where your credit card information is stored within your Apple ID and thus you don’t have to type it every single time you make a purchase. Another way to overcome this obstacle might be a system such as “Charge to Mobile” in the UK, wherein the phone operator directly bills the user for the purchase he/she makes without the use of a credit card. In addition to the privacy/safety concerns, an optimized e-commerce experience for mobile devices is critical for success. Especially when there is money exchange involved in the process, users tend to be a lot more cautious in their interactions with websites. It is important to provide a mobile specific shopping experience that is designed or optimized for the device that the customer is using. An optimized design, combined with a safe checkout system will encourage more customers to finish the transaction process they started on mobile devices.
In short, mobile search optimization, mobile e-commerce experience and a publicly safe checkout system should be seen as interconnected pieces of this puzzle rather than independent items. Bringing the customers to your mobile website should only be seen as the beginning of the journey. Half the battle is still providing a holistic experience that will streamline the process and make sure that they complete the journey without any problems.