Over the last couple of years even the most timid of technology adopters have made the leap to mobile. In comparison to technological innovations before it -- the onerous switch from direct mail to email, the mass migration to online and the initially slow adoption of social media -- mobile has suffered far less from naysayers preaching the “this too shall pass” gospel.

The quick adoption of mobile left little time for critics to debate itsstaying power, and those who did anyway had far smaller audiences thanin the past.

We have learned many lessons along the way, many of which are directly relevant to mobile -- things like user behavior, preferences and relevant best practices. It is our application of this existing knowledge that needs improvement. When it comes to optimizing mobile commerce, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, it’s more so a matter of making it better.

What Mobile Can Learn from Online

Here are a few things we already know that can be applied to mobile optimization:

A good user experience is crucial.

According to eConsultancy, 68 percent of mobile users say there is a strong link between customer experience and long-term business performance. What do users consider when rating their experience? Everything from aesthetics, ease-of-use and relevance of offers to advertisement positioning, load speeds and checkout processes.

Users have short attention spans.

The good news is that you do have more time to capture users’ attention on mobile than on computers. The bad news is that it’s not that long: it’s still under two seconds.

Speed is everything.

According to Equation Research, more than half of mobile device users say that they expect sites to download as quickly on their mobile devices as they do on their home computers. Of these users, 60 percent have had a problem accessing a website in the past year and 75 percent cited slow load times as their number one issue.

What Online (and Offline) Can Learn from Mobile

Mobile is not just an on-the-go version of online. It has unique qualities and characteristics that complement and challenge other channels. For instance, mobile is influencing non-mobile purchases.

According to, only 30 percent of purchase research conducted via mobile actually ends up in a mobile purchase. Thirty-seven percent of consumers who conduct product research on mobile make their actual purchases through their computer and 32 percent complete their purchase offline.

Mobile is also a threat to the many traditional businesses that either don’t respond to customer demands or accommodate changes in the way they interact with their business and industry. One particular complaint comes from brick-and-mortar stores that want to control for in-store price comparisons.

As with other overarching consumer practices that inevitably result in industry-wide change, this is one they won’t be able to stop, so they’ll have to learn to accommodate it. (The good news is that there are many ways to use mobile to learn from and reward activity that is initially seen as threatening -- but that’s an entirely different article.)

Optimizing for Mobile:What’s the Strategy?

Considering 25 percent of consumers say they would never visit a site again if they had a negative experience on their mobile, that three out of five claim that poor performance makes them less likely to return to a site, and that 40 percent would likely visit a competitor’s site if faced with slow load times, it’s not hard to make the case for introducing a good mobile optimization strategy. So, what is the strategy?

1. Design for speed by addressing page load time.

Users expect a similar performance on their mobile devices as they do on fixed devices in terms of page load times, as well as the time it takes to complete a task and overall ease of use. Page load times are crucial, but they can vary for a single news site across different devices. Looking at the same media site on three different devices, we found that in comparison to a fixed device, it loaded 3 times slower on an iPad and 6 to 7 times slower on an iPhone (on Wi-Fi, not 3G).

A one second delay in page load time amounts to 11 percent fewer page views, a 16 percent decrease in customer satisfaction, and 7 percent loss in conversions. In terms of money, this means that if your site typically earns US$ 50,000 a day, this year you could lose US$ 1 million in sales.

Learning Opportunities

2. Keep it simple.

To keep load times quick and improve usability, keeping things simple from a page weigh and UX standpoint is key. The iPhone has raised expectations about user experience on mobile devices. Apple and others have taught consumers about ease of use through great UIs. Customers are not expecting the exact same experience they get on an online site, they’re looking for a quick and easy one.

3. Control what you can.

Users don’t have a lot of time but they dohave a lot of options when they have a bad experience. Some of this “experience,” however, is completely out of your control! For instance, patchy phone service using AT&T in NY or San Francisco -- these things can work both for and against you. Fortunately, they are affecting your competition in the same ways.

4. Environment.

Design your sites for the on-the-go environments from which they’ll be accessed. Keep them simple and lightweight, almost as if you were designing for the Internet 10 years ago. Remember to account for multiple screen sizes, slow and high latency connections, and the different interfaces of different devices.

5. Experience.

Users expect to navigate mobile sites through touch rather than pointing and clicking. There are subtle differences between the two; become familiar with those.

6. Integrate across channels.

There is nothing more frustrating than switching from one device to another, and not having a consistent experience or not being able to find what you were just looking at. Mobile should be a standard part of your web strategy.

Despite the many nuances that make mobile different from other platforms, one thing that is consistent is competition. Whether in the physical world, the online one, mobile, whatever’s next … customers have choices and customers are fickle.

But rather than being the one who loses customers to temptation, optimize your mobile properties so that you are the one who lures in those who are not happy with their current mobile experiences. After all, only 12 percent of mobile users say they don’t find anything irritating about their mobile browsing experience. The other 88 percent are up for grabs …

Title image courtesy of violetkaipa (Shutterstock).

Editor's Note: To read more by Mark Simpson: