​E-commerce's holiday conundrum: Mobile first design

Black Friday and Cyber Monday proved that mobile is a big part of the e-commerce equation. The problem is that conversion rates stink on mobile. What role does design play?
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

The tallies are in for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and e-commerce sales through the holiday season, but the one statistic that may wind up haunting retailers is mobile conversion rates.

Simply put, smartphones and tablets just don't convert sales at the same rates as a PC. The problem is only going to become larger since mobile is taking a larger chunk of retail traffic.

Based on IBM data, the following picture has emerged for the 2014 holiday shopping season:

  • Cyber Monday mobile traffic accounted for 41.2 percent of all online traffic, up 30 percent from 2013.
  • Smartphones drove 28.5 percent of Cyber Monday traffic compared to 12.5 percent from tablets.
  • But tablets drove 12.9 percent of online sales Cyber Monday compared to 9.1 percent for smartphones.
  • Mobile conversion rates on Black Friday were 2.65 percent and 3.25 percent on Cyber Monday. The desktop conversion rates on Black Friday were 5.8 percent and 6.98 percent for Cyber Monday.

Here's a look at the full recap via IBM:


The stats that jump out are the mobile difficulties with closing a sale. The conversion rates on mobile are simply worse than the desktop.


Now the conventional wisdom is that smartphone behavior is different relative to larger screens. But if more e-commerce traffic is going mobile, retailers are going to have to up their design game.

The small screen forces focus when it comes to design. Too many retailers are trying to cram a desktop experience on a mobile chassis. That user experience is at least part of the reason that conversion rates are lower.

Perhaps mobile shopping is just different. It's far more likely that retailers aren't thinking mobile first designs.

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