Mobile devices are increasingly becoming shopping tools: They allow us to compare prices, virtually or while in-store, browse an infinite product range and even obtain discounts. As a result, we set out to make 2014 the year of Mobile Experience at Spreadshirt and we saw our sales via mobile devices double. What we weren’t expecting was that sales via mobile phones would start to rise and indeed overtake sales via tablets.

Previously we had seen customers using their phones to browse the site, but final choices and payment were done on a desktop or tablet. And we are not alone, according to Criteo’s State of Mobile Commerce report, increasingly mobile commerce is about smartphones, rather than tablets, with 53 percent of mobile retail transactions and 66 percent of mobile travel transactions coming from smartphones, globally. So how can online retailers convert mobile browsers into buyers? We think success is down to three things: visuals, features and payments.

Visuals – The web is becoming an increasingly visual experience. It is not surprising then that e-commerce has also becoming more visual too, with images often proving to be an entry point to the buying processes. Consumers want clear, inviting images, less clutter, which often means text, more symbols and a stronger focus on design.

For online retailers this is a User Experience (UX) issue too. Desktop consumers want enticing pictures, size and colour choices, other options, such as alternative products, as well as social functions.  While mobile consumers want simplicity because of screen size and download times. This might leave retailers with very hard business and UX decisions on what to leave out of their mobile design.

Features – searching has got to be easy. That doesn’t just mean easy to do, but it should be easy to find what you’re looking for. Really it should be called Find, not Search! Yet we must also keep in mind that mobile is increasingly not only a researching tool, it is where a third of fashion purchases come from. Consumers therefore appreciate a way to store things and come back to them.

The Wish List feature has been helpful in converting our mobile browsers. They may only have small pockets of time, so they want to be able to save their ideas on their wish list and come back and buy them later.

Payments – All of that is to no avail if the payment process is complex. We made our mobile payment space fully responsive in 2014. Now that all elements of the page can detect and adjust to the screen size of the device, the mobile payment process is easier and more intuitive.

Having a single page check-out is also essential in converting mobile visitors into sales. Clicking through varies pages to put in your address, choose a payment method and confirm the order works ok on a PC, but is painful on a mobile and discourages visitors from buying. The Spreadshirt single page check-out now meets the highest technology standards in terms of usability and technology.

We also need to keep in mind that mobile devices are relatively new to customers and the technology is changing very rapidly. The customer still has a lot to discover about how they like to shop on mobiles and retailers still have a lot to learn. Trends change rapidly too, and what we think is good one year might be out of date next, so in mobile in particular, companies should look to be upgrading regularly.

For us, to meet the technical expectations of our year of the Mobile Experience, we adopted agile development processes, a state-of-the-art procedure to ensure a very fast route to implementation and launch of the feature/service and to ensure its ongoing optimisation.

Mobile is moving away from being just a research tool into a significant buying channel, presenting huge opportunities for us and other online retailers to increase sales. Mobile sales are expected to rise to nearly 50% of all transactions in the coming years, as customers continue to use mobile devices and companies optimise sites for mobile conversion with better visuals, features and payment options. However, there still is quite a substantial absence of information about mobile commerce, leading many online retailers to continue under-estimating the opportunity this new channels presents. This might also be because it’s hard to assign value to mobile, the way we used to be able to with desktop, as it plays a more diverse and intricate role in a customer’s path to purchase.

Ultimately though, mobile commerce will continue to grow. Consumers will also increasingly demand a joined-up experience between channels. They are going to move from being happy that they can use a mobile to shop, to wanting to have exactly the same experience on desktops and tablets on their smartphones.  This might not necessarily mean having the same dynamic sites, but it will certainly need consistency in design, communication and functions.

Philip Rooke

Philip Rooke


Philip Rooke is CEO of Spreadshirt.