Smartphones are everywhere, and people are becoming increasingly reliant upon them to accomplish everyday tasks: setting their wake-up alarm, listening to the radio, and, of course, shopping. Because of this consumer reliance on these devices, a mobile-first approach is essential for retailers today, from responsive design for emails to mobile-friendly websites (including the checkout process).

However, even with this increase in smartphone usage, the majority of purchases are still happening on other devices. But why? Is it because technology has not yet caught up with consumer expectations for a purchase experience? Does age still dictate who uses smartphones for purchases? Or is it a combination of these, and then some?

Optimization Obstacle

Data from our recent survey, "How Consumers Across the Globe Use Multiple Devices to Shop and Buy," indicates that even in today’s mobile-first world, there are still inherent obstacles to making a purchase via a smartphone. Let’s think about why this might be the case.

Envision a scenario that challenges virtually every retailer today. You’re commuting on a train. You browse a website on your phone, find a product, cart the item and start to make a purchase, but the checkout process is not fully optimized for your smartphone. So you abandon the cart and finish your order via a friendlier device, such as a laptop. In this scenario, the mobile device was essential, but thanks to the obstacles of the brand’s mobile checkout, the conversion was dependent on another device. This gives would-be purchasers the opportunity to shop elsewhere.

This is exactly why retailers are focusing so heavily on prioritizing the mobile experience. They understand that allowing potential customers to leave their site without making a purchase not only gives them the opportunity to shop elsewhere, but also establishes in the consumer’s mind that the brand is not customer-centric.

It's Not Just for Millennials

As you would expect, our research shows that age appears to influence the level of comfort with making purchases on smartphones. Millennials are more likely to view mobile purchasing as the norm, but the behavior isn’t limited to younger generations. The older age groups are also comfortable making mobile purchases via the smartphone, which underlines the necessity to focus on providing a smooth mobile experience.

It’s expected that, over time, mobile purchasing across almost all age groups will increase, and it will likely be a result of two things. First, as smartphone payment technology advances and retailers streamline their purchase process, smartphone conversions will become as easy and as natural as walking into a store and paying for an item.

And as technology further cements itself into every aspect of everyday life, consumers, even in the older age groups, will be less reliant on desktops and laptops to make a purchase.

Until complete adoption, though, here are three ways you can help streamline the mobile purchase process:

  1. Add a message to your welcome series inviting new subscribers to create an online account. This can help make entering payment and shipping information easier during the checkout process, as entering this information on smaller devices is often a major obstacle during a mobile purchase.
  1. Ensure your emails are responsive and your message is clear. Don’t use too much text in your emails. Not only can it be hard to read on mobile phones, but attention spans are short. If you can’t convey your messaging in a matter of seconds (think three or fewer), your contact will likely swipe away from your email.
  1. Focus on the mobile site experience, including the checkout process. Can people easily navigate the site, save items and check out? Look for areas of high friction and improve them.

At the end of the day, the mobile experience matters. Whether mobile is used to start the purchase process or complete one from start to finish, a mobile-first approach is paramount in providing consumers the shopping experience they expect.