Nowadays, consumers don't shop online from their PC or laptop. Many use their smartphone to browse, compare prices and make purchases. Recent data from research firms indicate that this trend continues to soar.
One firm, eMarketer, projected that online purchases made in the U.S. in 2019 through a mobile device (smartphone and tablet) would top nearly $204 billion, which would translate to 34% of all e-commerce sales for that year. Another firm, Statista, predicted that this figure would reach 44.7% in 2019 and grow to 53.9% in 2021.
What defines an e-commerce site as "mobile-friendly?"
A mobile-friendly e-commerce website is an online store that a shopper can visit using their smartphone, browse items for sale and make a purchase. An e-commerce website that's designed well allows shoppers to navigate the entire experience from beginning to end with ease.
Mobile-friendly websites account for multiple elements, including the design, navigation, layout and general user experience. Ensuring that your website is just as responsive on mobile devices as it is for laptops or PCs means it is mobile-friendly.
What is mobile-friendly design?
A mobile-friendly e-commerce site should be designed so it can be viewed properly on a smartphone display, which is much smaller than that of a PC or laptop, of course. This is necessary for a user to fully interact with the website with their mobile device's touchscreen.
Your website's interface should be easy to use and intuitive for the shopper, and it should respond quickly to their input. These are key factors, because people expect faster results when they are using their smartphone.
Do I need a mobile app to make my website mobile-friendly?
No. You don't need to make an app or create a separate website.
"Many business owners have the misconception that e-commerce is technically difficult, expensive and time-consuming," Geoff Austin, marketing director of e-commerce platform Selz.com, told Business News Daily. "To be mobile-commerce ready, they think they need to have an app or a separate mobile website, which is all too much hassle and cost for the average small business."
"The good news is that you can have one website that customers can use to purchase no matter what device they use, whether it be on a desktop PC, smartphone or tablet, if the website is built using responsive design."
What is responsive design?
A website featuring responsive design means it can be viewed and interacted with equally well through a web browser on a PC/laptop or mobile web browser on a smartphone.
Typically, a website is first designed to be used through a web browser on a PC or laptop. A website created with a responsive design, however, optimizes itself for the smaller display and touchscreen of a smartphone. That is, the text, images, layout, and other design elements automatically readjust their placement and sizing when viewed on a smartphone. So, ideally, the website should look and operate as well on a smartphone as it does on a desktop, appearing as if it was originally designed for the device on which it is accessed.
How do I make my e-commerce site mobile-friendly?
Website design platforms that implement responsive design mean you only need to design your website for the PC/laptop web browser. A mobile-friendly version of it (that can be viewed and interacted with on a smartphone) is generated automatically.
There are many hosted e-commerce platforms that allow you to create an online store, even if you have little or no technical knowledge. You can also add e-commerce functionality to your existing website easily and affordably. Most e-commerce platforms use responsive design to ensure that a website or shopping cart displays effectively across a range of devices and screen sizes. [Are you looking for the best e-commerce platforms for your website? See our reviews and best picks.]
Here's a checklist of five things you should consider to prepare your business's website for mobile e-commerce.
1. Use the right tools.
Look for a hosted e-commerce platform with responsive design. If you're already using a popular blog platform such as WordPress, choose a theme and shopping cart that employ responsive design. This will make securely processing credit card payments on your WordPress site as easy as cutting and pasting a snippet of code for the hosted shopping cart.
Although it can be fairly "easy" to make your e-commerce site mobile-friendly by using these tools, you should still consider beforehand how your site will look and function from a mobile perspective.
2. Think mobile first.
Double-check that your website design and navigation work well on smartphones. For example, try keeping input forms to a minimum in your website's design. And especially make sure that the checkout process for your customers is simple, easy to understand, simple to use, and quick to complete on a smartphone.
3. Get the basics of e-commerce right.
Don't forget the basics of what makes an e-commerce site a great experience for the user.
For example, good-quality images and descriptions of the products that you're selling are essential. A bad picture will turn off a prospective buyer. Clearly communicate your shipping costs, delivery times and any warranties. If possible, offer free shipping above a particular order value if you sell physical products.
This isn't just to land a sale. It can reduce the number of steps during the checkout process for your customers.
4. Speed matters, especially on mobile.
Businesses often lose sales if their e-commerce site (either mobile or nonmobile version) doesn't load fast enough, or if the checkout process takes too long. And sluggish performance or slow response by a mobile website can feel worse for the user, because people often use their smartphone when they want an immediate response.
Look for a web host or e-commerce provider that advertises its service as optimized for speed. You may have to pay more for this, but it can be worth it. If you already have a nonmobile version of your e-commerce site that generates modest sales, look for a company that can provide a speed boost; your website may get even more traffic after you make it mobile-friendly.
5. Social media and your e-commerce site.
Social media apps continue to be the most popular way that people spend time on their smartphones. Leverage these social networks (particularly Facebook and Instagram) as additional channels to drive traffic to your e-commerce site.
Assume that most of the traffic that your website will get through social media networks will be from people on their smartphones. Your e-commerce site must respond accordingly and be mobile-friendly.
Nicole Fallon contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.