The switch has little to do with safety. For many sites, the mobile shopping experience simply does not match the experience offered by larger devices. Mobile scrolling on even the larger shopping sites--like, say, Bonobos or J. Crew--is dreadfully slow.
As of now, it is clear that (for many users) mobile phones provide a valuable shopping tool, yet the device itself is not necessarily viewed as the best platform to purchase. The distinction is subtle, yet important.
Over a year ago, in a misleadingly titled article--"It’s official: Mobile devices surpass PCs in online retail"--the e-commerce news site, Internet Retailer, revealed this distinction between browsing and buying. Citing statistics from comScore, Bill Siwicki, noted that "55% of all time spent with online retail in June 2013 occurred on a mobile device" and "45% occurred on desktops and laptops." And yet, "When it comes to making purchases online, 69% of desktop shoppers, 34% of tablet shoppers and 21% of smartphone shoppers made at least one purchase online in Q2 2013."
Current statistics on the distinction between mobile browsing and purchasing are not yet available--if you find some, please let us know--yet we believe it's safe to assume that, even as mobile browsing increases, actual purchases will often be left to the desktop or tablet--or brick and mortar store. As Google itself reported in May, 2013, "84% of smartphone shoppers use their phones while in a physical store."
Now, it seems, Google is doing its best to change this equation. As Search Engine Land reported last week:
"Google is sending mass notifications to webmasters who has [sic] websites that are not mobile-friendly. These notifications contain the subject 'fix mobile usability issues found on…' It then goes on to explain that these sites have critical mobile usability errors on 100% of the pages on the site and thus the pages will be “displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users.”
Here's what the email looks like:
Clearly, Google is throwing down the gauntlet--and for a good reason. The search engine wants to make the mobile browsing experience better for users. And ideally, a better overall browsing environment, with faster loading speeds, fasting scrolling, and easy purchasing will make the purchasing experience more enticing for users.
Why does this matter? Why is it important for Google (and you) that more mobile users actually use the phone to purchase? Well, as far back as 2013 (so long ago!), our time spent on mobile devices surpassed our time spent on other devices. As eMarketer reported then:
"Mobile has become so key to consumers’ lives that for the first time this year, time spent on nonvoice mobile activities will surpass time spent online on desktop and laptop computers...
US adults will spend 43.6% of their overall media time with digital this year, including 19.4% on mobile—compared to 19.2% on laptops and PCs."
The opportunity here is clear: As the mobile experience improves, more consumers will become comfortable purchasing on mobile devices, and the sites with the best mobile experience will attract a larger share of the purchasing audience.
I don't think we're offering a groundbreaking assessment here, and really the idea that all sites should improve the mobile experience is, by now, old news. At the very least, however, this view should inspire online retailers, both small and large, to try to get ahead of the curve.
How can you improve your site's shopping experience so that consumers will be motivated to buy on a mobile device? The answer, simply, is speed and reliability.
The race is on. Are you running?
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