Shoppers have spoken, and it’s a mobile-first world. The 2016 Christmas Holiday season represented the first year ever where peak traffic to retail sites was mostly mobile, with 52% of all shopping visits happening on phones. Mobile surged during Cyber Week, capturing 53% of all traffic, up from 44% in 2015. Even more important for retailers, shoppers are buying on mobile, too. Overall last season, mobile order share was up to 31% from 25% in 2015.

Mobile, and much more, is covered in our 2017 Guide to Holiday Readiness.

The march toward mobile shows no signs of abating; according to the latest Shopping Index, phones accounted for 34% of orders and 57% of traffic. And, shoppers are showing more buying intent on mobile than on computers. The story of the 2017 shopping season will undoubtedly be mobile, so it goes without saying that retailers who don’t take a mobile-first approach will be left behind – and fast.

How can retailers optimize their mobile presence, and remove the many pain points on the way to purchase during the critical shopping season?

Simplify Checkout with One-Touch Buying

It’s no secret that conversion rates on mobile trail other devices. Why? One critical factor is clear — buying on mobile is a frustrating process, with tiny form fields and too many pages involved in the checkout process. Retailers and brands should implement integrated mobile wallets like Apple Pay for the web (available in notable markets such as the US, Canada, UK, France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland) and Android Pay (available in the US, Canada, UK, Japan and Australia), as well as other mobile payment types like PayPal Express and Klarna, which promise to drive adoption of mobile commerce.

Wolverine Worldwide felt it important enough that it extended its code freeze last holiday season to implement Apple Pay. After launching Apple Pay, Wolverine saw a 21% increase in iPhone conversion across all of its 12 brands. Some brands saw mobile conversion on iPhone improve by as much as 33%.

The implementation of single-touch Apple Pay helped alleviate another vexing problem for Wolverine, cart abandonment, which tends to be higher on mobile devices. With Apple Pay, Wolverine was able to streamline the number of fields in the checkout process by up to 75%.

Mobile-first site design promote simplicity and usability 

If you are simply scaling down your full site, or (gasp) forcing shoppers to pinch and zoom, you are giving your customers an open invitation to shop elsewhere. Developing a best-in-class mobile shopping experiences starts with understanding some of the unique shopping behaviors on mobile, such as site search, which continues to grow and is now equal to search usage on other devices.

Sites that provide a persistent and expanded search box in the header see 44% higher search usage. According to our heat map data, search boxes that are persistently displayed have a higher click rate than those that are just icons:

In fact, Stonewall Kitchen doubled their search usage when they went from displaying just an icon to a display search box. On desktop, they went from 11.4% to 24.38%; on mobile they went from 7.23% to 19.44%.

Checkout. It’s no secret that friction in the checkout process has a negative impact on mobile conversion. Mobile checkout rates trail other devices by 11%, so it’s crucial to focus on checkout optimization. Look towards creating a single page accordion style checkout to drive shoppers towards completion.

Location. Mobile shoppers are on the move. One of the most frequent searches from phones is for store location and details. And, 59% of shoppers report that they have used their phone while in a store in the 3 months. The use of geolocation technology can enhance the user experience in several ways:

  • Display the closest store and store-specific promotions
  • Determine buy online, ship-to-store or pickup in store availability based on proximity to participating store
  • Use content slot messaging to highlight ship and payment options for a shoppers’ region
  • Target specific products and promotions based on regional preferences or the weather, and prepare for the unexpected

With the smaller screen, simplicity and usability are paramount. The fewer taps, the better. Some tips:

  • Finger-friendly design: make sure buttons and navigation elements are at least 44 pixels x 44 pixels for easy of interaction
  • Always give shoppers the option to check out as a guest – 55% of checkouts on the Commerce Cloud are made as such
  • Consider a zip code lookup to minimize required fields
  • Provide at least one alternate payment type (such as mobile wallets)
  • Persist the add-to-cart button on your product detail page

Mobile performance and load times. On mobile, more so than on the full web, shoppers will quickly abandon a site for poor performance. In fact, the optimum load time for a mobile site is about four seconds – that’s not easy to maintain during peak shopping times. Here are some tips to improve mobile performance:

  • Keep the site simple; minimize third-party downloads and use web services where possible
  • Streamline and lighten critical pages in the conversion funnel
  • Lighten the number of page elements and use image compression (image weight is a performance killer!)
  • Reduce server roundtrips and minimize latency by using a content delivery network.

Social skews mobile. The impact of consumer (social) platforms on digital commerce is growing rapidly, with traffic increasing 60% year-over-year. This traffic skews mobile, during Christmas/Holiday 2016, 5% of all mobile traffic was social. Care should be given as to where traffic lands from social campaigns and influencers (hint: curate landing and even product detail pages with personalized content incorporating traffic source)

Turn to the store. During holiday, retailers should cater to last-minute shoppers by driving them from their mobile device into the store, particularly once free shipping deadlines have passed. Retailers should promote the expertise of store associates to help shoppers find the perfect gift.

Connect the carts. More than half of shoppers abandon their online shopping cart because they are not ready to purchase; retailers and brands can save the sale by giving shoppers the option to save or email their cart to themselves. And, look to connect those carts across devices for known shoppers – a cart created by a registered or recognized shopper on a phone should be accessible to them on their computer.

Mobile is the biggest disruption to retail since ecommerce. But it’s even more disruptive given the astonishingly short period of time in which it has occurred, and the torrid pace of its growth. The story of this Christmas holiday shopping season will be mobile, mobile, and mobile. You must make sure you are ready.