Unless mobile optimization is a priority on your enterprise roadmap, you're setting your company or brand up for failure. 

That's the warning from Rick Kenny, head of consumer insights at Demandware, a Burlington, Mass.-based provider of a cloud-based e-commerce platform.

Kenny said the idea of a mobile first world is quickly being supplanted by a mobile only one.

As of 2015, worldwide mobile phone internet user penetration was 52.7 percent. 

This year, it is expected to exceed 56 percent — and by 2017, 63.4 percent of mobile phone users are likely to access online content through their devices, according to data from eMarketer and the Associated Press.

If you're waiting for mobile to get bigger, stop. "What are you waiting for?" Kenny asked. "It’s already a mobile first world."

Based on recent Demandware research, Kenny is  encouraging companies to managers to optimize for mobile phones, forget about tablets and take a long, hard look at how desktops are being used.

The Rise Of Mobile

By the end of next year, purchases will originate on mobile devices, according to Demandware's Mobile Shopping Focus Report. For online retailers that are still dragging their heels on mobile optimization, the message is clear: it’s time to get your act together.

“Phones are the most disruptive force to hit retail since retail went digital. Still, amazingly, many retailers still treat mobile as an afterthought – a feature that needs to be checked off their to-do list or worse, an entirely separate channel," Kenny wrote in an introductory blog post on the report, which looks at shopper context, shopper experience, shopping intent and conversion; digital retailing; and how leaders in the space approach mobile shopping.

It concludes:

  • Mobile is first – phones now drive more digital traffic than any other device
  • Mobile check out is still fraught with friction, with conversion rates trailing computers by 13 percent
  • Larger phone screens help boost mobile conversion rates
  • Mobile wins nights and weekends, while computers capture shoppers’ attention during business hours
  • Mobile shopping behavior is upending traditional performance metrics

“For a couple of years we’ve been talking and waiting for mobile first.  We’ve been saying ‘hey mobile first is coming, it’s getting closer and so on.' But reality check: mobile first is here," Kenny told CMSwire.

3 Pain Points for Mobility

There are three specific problems identified in the research.

Mobile Shoppers Exit Before Check Out

Consumers seem happy to browse from their smartphones, but are less enthusiastic about checking out and closing sales. What’s worse, 26 percent won't begin the checkout process. Those that do are 11 percent less likely to complete the transaction.

“One of the problems that has been pointed out over the years is that consumers don’t like the mobile checkout process. There are too many form fields to fill out and it takes too long,” Kenny said. “The rate at which shoppers were completing a task on mobile was lower than other devices."

Mobile originated visits are increasing, but they are not being turned into sales. The research shows 27 percent of e-commerce baskets started on mobile phones in the first quarter in 2015. This year, the figure had climbed to 38 percent.

“What this shows us is that the front funnel is pretty good, but the back of the funnel is causing friction,” he said.

Mobile Conversion Rates for Phones Lag

The conversion rates for mobile phones is well below that of tablets or computers. To measure this, Demandware has developed a new metric called the Conversion Index, which quantifies the performance on each kind device.

It does this by looking at order share over visit share. Kenny points out that they have been tracking this number for the past few years and the value globally at the moment is about 0.56, where 1.0 is perfect conversion. If you go back to 2013 that value was 0.3 range.

“We project this to be 0.6 or even 0.7 by the end of next year and that’s when it really starts to become interesting. It means that by the end of next year, as we are expecting about 60 percent of traffic to come from phones, that around 45 percent of orders will be coming from phones."

The research also found Apple devices carry traffic and order share, but when looking through the lens of conversion index, Samsung devices — with their historical larger screens — provide more efficient shopping visits.

Time on Site Is Declining

Shoppers are spending all their idle time on phones and that’s leading to a diminution of the time they spend on site. In fact, the amount of time spent per mobile visit has declined nine percent in the past year.

This is also related to when users are using specific devices.

“Nights and weekends are owned by phone and then business hours are owed by computers. We see that tablets are starting to be crowded out with this hart of traffic getting to be under 10 percent. There are two major devices phones and tables,” he said.

Title image by Tim Gouw