Is mobile user experience improving? / by Gavin Lau

Mobile commerce growth continues, but are retailers meeting customer expectations and providing the best possible user experience?

The IMRG reports that sales via smartphones grew by 91% year on year, which underlines the importance of mobile usability.

However, mobile conversion rates lag behind desktop, with the average mobile conversion rate now 1.9% (up from 1.4% in the same period last year).

This compares to average conversion rates of 3,8% for tablet devices.  Indeed, just 24% of total mobile commerce sales are via phones, the rest are from tablets. 

User experience is a big factor here. Mobile devices offer convenience and the ability to purchase from any location, but it can still be a tricky experience to actually make a purchase.

With this in mind, Practicology and whatusersdo have conducted a study of 15 well established retailers’ mobile sites, using a combination of user testing and Net Promoter Scores (NPS) to determine their usability.

Here are some key findings from the report:

Slow loading is often a problem, and retailers do need to pay attention to speed as slow loading is a real conversion killer on mobile devices.

The checkout is key too, I’ve encountered many mobile commerce sites where product search and selection works well, only to be let down by an overly complex checkout process.

Some problems are hard to avoid. For example, if you need customers address and card details, there is going to be a certain amount of form filling no matter how usable. This alone can deter users.

There are possible solutions though:

  • Saving basket contents for later. Many people will prefer to browse on mobile, but checkout on desktop.
  • Providing alternative payment methods. PayPal and other methods will usually just require an email and a password, meaning less work for shoppers.
  • Saving address and payment details. This is one reason why Amazon has been so successful on mobile.
  • Guest checkout. The fewer barriers put in front of users, the more likely it is that they’ll convert.

Here are the NPS scores for each retailer. There’s a lot of variation here, with Schuh and Argos well ahead, while Boots and Paperchase seemingly have some work to do.

Let’s look at Boots’s mobile site. 50% of users struggled to create an account when testing. 

The question here is: why is Boots forcing users to create an account before checkout?

It’s widely accepted that registration is a barrier to conversion on desktop, but it’s even worse on mobile.

It’s also a very bad registration process. For example, I’m asked to enter a password without any guidance on the required format (min. number of characters, mix of letters and numbers etc).

Therefore I had no idea I couldn’t use the same letter or number more than twice until I see this error message.

This is annoying and a reason for many customers to abandon in itself. Imagine a shopper on a variable internet connection where every page load takes 30 seconds or more.

This error message has just wasted a minute of their time. It all adds to the frustration.

Then Boots asks for address, date of birth and more, all of which could be merged into the checkout process rather then placed as a barrier before it.

I’m not sure what Boots’ mobile conversion rates are, but given this checkout and its NPS score, I’m willing to bet they’re lower than the average.

Another obvious barrier to conversion is this overlay when you arrive at the Debenhams mobile site:

Debenhams wants you to save a link to the site on your phone’s homescreen.

I imagine the Debenhams team thinks this will be useful for customer retention and that this interruption to the user experience is worth the risk.

However, I’m not so sure. Also, this overlay is intended for Apple devices, but also appears for Android users.


In summary

I’ve talked about some of the negatives from the report here, but next time I’ll look at what makes a great mobile user experience.

The stats here suggest I’ll be looking to Schuh and Argos for the answer to that question…