Why mobile needs to be perceived as just one element of the customer experience, rather than a conversion target

Retailers have long been frustrated with the slow growth in mobile e-commerce conversions. As smartphones and tablets continue to generate higher usage than desktops, businesses are afraid of losing out on all those prospective sales. Although the mobile share of e-commerce transactions is growing, businesses are realizing that expecting people to buy every product and service on mobile devices completely misses the point of mobile.

When Do Mobile Conversions Work?

When do people buy on mobile devices? Just like in any other transaction, they do it when it suits them. The mobile retail experience has got to fulfill a number of criteria before people are going to press "pay." It’s got to be immediate and convenient, giving people what they want, when they want it.

When it’s easy, when it’s quick, or when it does something that can’t be done on a desktop — that’s when retailers can expect conversion. From buying cinema or tram tickets to saving time with a repeat supermarket purchase, this is where mobile wins over desktop.

Travel is one of the fastest growing mobile areas. But it’s not just about buying tickets. When consumers are on the move, they need to access services and goods quickly and conveniently. More than three out of four millennial travelers would like to be able to make an airport-related purchase such as parking, meals, souvenirs or reading materials on their mobile device or self-service kiosk.

We can learn some lessons from e-commerce in Japan where consumers often check out items in store and then buy them on mobile sites to avail of special points systems. As a result, 89 percent of Japanese consumers have participated in mobile commerce activities and 22 percent of online shopping in Japan was conducted through mobile devices.

Right Here, Right Now — That’s When You Can Sell

According to research by Google/Nielsen, almost 70 percent of mobile consumers want businesses to be located within five miles of their location. That’s good news for businesses aiming at mobile conversions. But it means they need to provide the right tools to attract and convince mobile browsers. The real winners here are companies that are at the forefront of digital transformation.

Mobile-only based app Hotel Tonight has got this exactly right, allowing guests to make a booking with only 3-taps and within 10 seconds. Uber is another poster child for mobile success, allowing commuters to book taxis that come within minutes, all with a few taps.

Event organizers are in the right place to push mobile sales, especially when they combine their e-commerce efforts with an innovative beacon program. This was the case for Major League Baseball, which rolled out iBeacons in 28 of its 30 ballparks across the US, allowing fans not just to use an app to check in, but also to buy seat upgrades and merchandise.

But it’s not just in events where businesses can use beacons to increase their mobile conversion rates. For many retailers, beacon technology is helping them to track customer journeys in store so that they can offer them relevant offers at the right time. This is what Hillshire Brands did, sending shoppers discount coupons or ads for their Craft sausages when the shopper approached that section of the store, making them 20 times more likely to buy.

Tech-savvy retailers like Macy's have started implementing image recognition to give them another edge with mobile commerce, allowing customers to take pictures of things they’re interested in and use their mobile to find out where to buy them.

Mobile Is Only Part of the Journey

Apps and beacon technology may be helping mobile move faster in the e-commerce race, but retail experts are beginning to realize that mobile conversion is not the only goal in sight. Mobile has a bigger role to play in a multichannel shopping arena.

According to Criteo, 40 percent of e-commerce transactions are now cross device, meaning consumers use multiple devices to access sites prior to purchase. The challenge for marketers therefore isn’t just about mobile conversions, but understanding cross-device behavior so that they can make sure sales do happen, regardless of the channel. As I mentioned in a previous article, this also has an impact on the content strategies they develop.

For example, many consumers choose to browse on their mobiles, but then buy on desktops. When retailers take that into account, their attitudes to mobile strategy invariably change. It becomes more about a personalized interaction with brands than a hard sell approach.

Mobile also has a key role in encouraging shopping in bricks and mortar stores, with many consumers consulting their mobiles for brand and product information, but ultimately buying it in store. According to Google, holiday shoppers consult at least 12 sources (compared to 10 in 2005) before making a decision.

One in three shoppers use their smartphone to inform themselves about products instead of asking store employees. In the Middle East, 36 percent of Arab smartphone users are saving items in checkout and buying them later at bricks-and-mortar shops.

We’re still on the road to discovering the best way to reach consumers, and it’s likely that this journey will change from day to day. Mobile is a key element in any e-commerce campaign, but it’s just one part of a complex multichannel journey.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  landrovermena