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EDITORIAL Survival of the fastest: an evolutionary path for mobile retailers

Charles Darwin may have never said it

In hisOrigin of Species, Charles Darwin famously never actually wrote “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself”.

However, while not his actual words – despite being cast into the concrete floor of the headquarters of the California Academy of Sciences – this underlying tenet of evolutionary theory applies to mobile commerce just as it might have done to the Galapagos finch and even the dodo.

While shoppers are increasingly becoming mobile centric – not least on Valentine’s Day, when blind panic overtakes any thoughts of website UX – most retailers are simply not adapted to their needs.

A study by PayPal out this week indicates that, while 42% of people are buying via their mobile phone at least once a week – rising to 65% for consumers age 25 to 34 – just 17% offer websites designed for these small portable screens, showing no improvement from last year.

PayPal singles out SME retailers, but in truth the problem extend to most retailers – and it is costing them. According to analysts are Contentsquare, mobile is set to account for an average of 54% of all online sales this year – but its conversion rate is still at a paltry 2%.

The reason, says its report, sits squarely with poor mobile UX – something driven by a lack of true understanding around how shoppers shop on mobile.

According to Contentsquare, shoppers actually exhibit similarly behaviours on desktop and mobile when shopping – the only difference being that those that don’t convert exit more rapidly from mobile than desktop.

And the reason? It believes that exits on mobile are driven by poor experience on a home page. Shoppers who land on a product page or something more immediately useful tend to then stick around on mobile and go on to buy – something that desktop email marketers have long known.

Applying the same ideas from the desktop world to mobile now seems to be something that can create traction. Gone are the days when mobile was treated totally differently by shoppers: increasingly they want a similar experience to desktop, only more optimised and speedy.

Customers now want all the trappings of desktop – the richness, the choice, the graphics – but also optimised for their device, fast to download and easy to use. They also want to be delivered straight to their point of interest, not a homepage. Clicks, it seems, are out and pics are in.

Get this optimisation right, adapt to the change like a Galapagos finch with its specially evolved beak, and mobile conversions will go up – as will sales.

This is backed up, in a strange way, by Valentine’s Day. According Glassbox Digital, average mobile conversion rates are set to hit around 15-20% between 5 and 14 February. Quite a leap from 2%. The reason? Panic. It seems that mobile conversion goes up when people don’t care about UX (when they are trying to find that special gift that they have in no way whatsoever forgetten to get), sort of proving the point that UX normally affects conversion. 

Glassbox Digital’s director of data science, Ben Tang puts it much better, thus: “Mobile conversions are higher because Valentine’s Day purchases are usually last minute/impulse buys… people feel like they HAVE to buy something for their partner hence they buy less ’sensibly.’ “

That groaning noise you can hear? That’s the sound of romance dying – men, it seems, aren’t evolving. And you can misquote me on that.

Image: Fotolia

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