This is the second in a blog series on Holiday Readiness. Read the first, “All Retailers Want for Christmas.”

By now it’s plainly obvious that many people cannot function without their phones. This holiday shopping season may be the first where most people cannot shopwithout their phones.

This has huge implications for retailers, as those who don’t take a mobile-first approach will be left behind by more fleet-footed competitors. According to the Q1 Demandware Shopping Index, phones accounted for 45% of traffic to retail sites, and 25% of orders.

How can retailers optimize their mobile presence to engage with and retain easily distracted, impatient shoppers?

First and foremost, mobile site design and functionality must cater to the unique needs of mobile users, starting with large and persistent search boxes. On mobile, site search usage is 44% higher with a persistent search box expanded in the header. It’s no secret that friction in the checkout process gums up the works of mobile commerce, so optimizing your checkout glow is absolutely vital. Apple Pay for the web, for one, promises to accelerate the checkout and payment flow, and has the potential to increase conversion and drive higher order share on phones.

Just as mobile users have unique needs, mobile device provide retailers with unique advantages, like geolocation, which should be leveraged to the fullest. Retailers should use geolocation to suggest the nearest store – it is one of the top use cases on mobile – and link to phone numbers and other contact information. This is enormously important as many mobile users will search for a brand not to shop but for the express purpose of finding a store.

And speaking of 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.

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

Of course, usability and simplicity is key in mobile. The fewer clicks, the better. Some tips: retailers should always give shoppers the option to check out as a guest – 85% of checkouts on the Demandware platform are made as such. Consider a zip code lookup to minimize required fields, provide at least one alternate payment type, and use big, clear buttons to make the path to purchase crystal clear. Provide an extra layer of confidence by using a padlock icon on checkout buttons.

Another consideration: More than half of shoppers abandon their online shopping cart because they are not ready to purchase; retailers can save the sale by giving shoppers the option to save or email their cart to themselves. One global retailer at a recent Demandware holiday readiness roundtable said they like email my cartbecause it does not require registration and thus, tends to improve stickiness.

There are several ways retailers can leverage geolocation to personalize the mobile shopping experience this holiday:

  • 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; recall the 70-degree Christmas holiday in New England in 2015.

Finally, while retailers might not be taking a mobile-only approach just yet, they should be thinking mobile-first when it comes to development and design. An element that looks great on the full web might render horribly on a phone, creating a bad user experience and giving shoppers an invitation to visit another site.

One roundtable attendee said they invested in several dozen phones to test all elements of their mobile experience, ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks in the leadup to holiday.

As the recent Demandware Mobile Shopping Focus report demonstrates, phones represent the biggest disruption to retail since retail went digital. But it’s even more disruptive given the astonishingly short period of time in which it has occurred. The story of this Christmas holiday shopping season will be mobile, mobile, and mobile.

Make sure you are ready.


Holiday Readiness Part One: All Retailers Want for Christmas…