Why Do Mobile Conversion Rates Still Stink?

It's clear that consumers spend a lot more time browsing retail sites on mobile, but they don't buy.

Mobile is the ecommerce frontier. There is virtually no arguing that everything is moving toward mobile dominance. Early in 2015, Google announced that mobile searches surpassed computer searches. Doesn’t it seem strange, then, that mobile conversions still lag so far behind?

Monetate‘s Ecommerce Quarterly Report found that about 60 percent of all purchases are completed on a desktop or laptop computer. Tablets account for 17 percent and smartphones grab 23 percent. When people start browsing on a smartphone, only about 64 percent of the resulting purchases are completed on a smartphone.

Conversion rates in general are up across all devices, at about 2.3 percent for desktops and tablets, but mobile conversions average a miserable 0.97 percent–way up from 2014, but still pretty abysmal.

It’s clear that consumers spend a lot more time browsing retail sites on mobile, but they don’t buy. How many sales are lost, and what can businesses do to fix it?

The answer may lie in usability. Even sites optimized for mobile may lack the features that make it easy to buy. Too many mobile web developers concentrate on loading speed and layout simplicity–both important considerations–and miss the principles of selling.

Most buying decisions are made within an hour of browsing. When people go to an e-tailer, they are already motivated. Let’s set aside the obvious reasons people might not buy–price, selection and availability–because that’s a different conversation, and look at barriers to purchase if everything else is in place.


On a full-sized computer, it’s pretty easy to narrow your selection to exactly what you want, for example: shoes/women’s shoes/heels. On a tiny phone screen, it’s not always easy, but some businesses do ecommerce much better than others.

Macy’s new mobile web interface is pretty fierce. Full-screen broad category selections dominate the page, and when you click on shoes, you get a nifty fly-in menu on the left and visual category selections on the right. Additional sorting features allow you to further narrow your choice by color, style and other criteria. It’s easy and intuitive to find exactly what you’re looking for.


Macy’s really gets it–big, finger-friendly buttons, easy choices and simple ordering on the plus side. The one negative was slow-loading ordering pages.

Another thing Macy’s does right: social sharing. Under each product page, you can post the photo and description to your social media accounts–great for crowdsourcing decisions when customers can’t make up their minds.

Just kidding: You can’t buy that online

Ikea‘s website is nearly as confusing as its store. I decided to shop for Christmas decorations and clicked on this very strange Christmas goat. The product page tells me, in small letters, “Sorry, you cannot buy this online. Check your local store.” What? Why? Is it perishable?


Turns out, there’s a checkbox to opt out of items you can’t purchase online. In the category of Christmas decorations, you can’t buy anything online.

Fields, fields and more fields

Ikea is also a little sticky about fields. In the first step of the multi-step ordering process, I blew it. You have to enter your ZIP code and your state. ZIP code alone wasn’t enough. But there was no error message; it just didn’t go anywhere until I figured it out on my own. The ordering form was really long, and evidently, phone extensions were required–they were starred. On mobile, less is more. Collect the least possible amount of information to make the sale.

Buy buttons

The one thing that may drive more mobile sales than any other single factor is the buy button. If your customer can buy on the spot with one tap, lots of them will.

All of this adds up to one thing: Keep it simple. That’s the key to e-commerce conversions. It has to be simple and direct, with strong calls to action and simple pay solutions.

Sherry Gray is a freelance content writer from Key West, Fla., currently suffering in the suburbs of Orlando. She is a science geek, a social media junkie and an unapologetic fan of all things bacon. Follow her on Twitter: @SheriSaid.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.