top of page

Mobile optimization has failed ecommerce.

Despite share shifts, the conversion gap remains intact

Back in Q4 2021, desktop computers converted at 1.85x the rate of mobile.

The latest data from Salesforce tells us that in Q4 2023, that same number stands slightly taller, at 1.94x.

Let’s park the mobile forensics and talk about full-screen traffic. As much as we’ve left it for the village elders, 1/3rd of conversions and a slightly higher share of revenue still happens there.

As browsing has migrated to mobile, the remaining desktop traffic has turned into a sort of ‘conversion concentrate’ - like the old frozen cans of orange juice concentrate.

Those desktop visits are far more intentional. There’s a lesson in here, of course. If you have a full screen to work with, use it. Those conversion, upsell and cross-sell tools (fitters, finders, comparisons etc.) should be present and compelling. Like an old football coach would say: “take what they give you.”

Back to mobile (web), where we find 78% of all visits.

Despite all the talk, reports, breakout sessions, and even LinkedIn posts, mobile optimization LOOKS like a failure.

My take - the failure of mobile optimization is because we’ve been so caught up in the size of the screen, that we’ve largely ignored the more important consideration: the shopper’s context.

Here’s what we know about mobile behavior and shopping:

  • We check our phones 144 times per day (per - this makes for short browsing bursts, and a LOT of interruption

  • Social is contributing more traffic to mobile as ad impressions soar

  • Email continues to deliver traffic, and largely happens on mobile). In short, mobile enables always-on shopping.

In these trends, we see that the great contribution that mobile has made is always on, always available shopping. Like window shopping with no barriers. We’re constantly grazing.

Now, about that optimization:

There have been two significant mobile (web) commerce innovations over the past decade or so:

  1. Mobile checkout → wallets. Apple Pay stood on the shoulders of PayPal to create a fat-finger-free and better than desktop checkout. ShopPay has become a commerce darling more recently

  2. Responsive design helped us design one site for lots of devices.

You can add a third, which is network speed, though the media industry was a stronger driving force there. Commerce is a happy beneficiary, of course.

But, those advances are more focused on the optics of the screen, not the context of the shopper.

A better approach to mobile optimization must be shaped by the realities of the shopper context. Each of those browsing bursts must build on each other. Marketing (and data platforms) play a key role here - helping to identify, chain together all of the visits AND paint the next message (or page) with relevant content based on the content consumed during those visits.

If we solely optimize the PAGE, we miss out on guiding and advancing the shopper’s intention. And, we’ll continue to not only see a growing conversion rate gap between devices, but hinder the growth of ecommerce as a whole.

Sure, do the basics for optimizing pixels. But mobile optimization needs to be shaped by the shopping context to link the entire mobile journey.

bottom of page