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The Future of Conversion Optimization – What’s New and What’s Next

Trend forecasting posts are usually reserved for the New Year, but so many changes have happened already through 2014, that we’d be remiss if we didn’t tackle a few of them now. With conversion optimization, the user still remains the key pivotal player, but the way they interact with the web and how they buy is changing. Let’s take a closer look at the ever-shifting landscape to see what’s coming up on the horizon in terms of both technology and design.

Mobile is No Longer a Minority

It used to be that sites were designed with “mobile friendly” options, much in the same way that browser redirects were used to accommodate users in the early 2000’s. Then came responsive design and “mobile first” champions, which provided a truly optimized experience for users – until they reached the checkout. Then, thanks in part to clunky, “bolt-on” e-commerce systems, they were generally funneled to their respective desktop-only versions, only to abandon their cart out of sheer frustration.

And that’s exactly what happened for the University of Oregon Duck Store. Through a partnership with Volusion, it added mobile optimized commerce, which immediately saw orders rise for the subsequent six weeks. The Duck Store had already optimized its product and category pages for smaller screens, but not its checkout process.

oregon duck

By renovating its ecommerce strategy to focus on the growing mobile market (which is getting close to 50% of traffic saturation), the Duck Store was able to increase its conversions and mobile sales by a whopping 184%.

As more mobile retailers begin to optimize their mobile commerce offerings for the full suite of pages, and not just products or categories, mobile commerce will continue to grow by leaps and bounds, likely taking over conventional desktop e-commerce shopping in the coming years.

The Pros and Pitfalls of One-Touch Access

Amazon revolutionized e-commerce with its patented “1 Click Checkout”. Now the process has become even more streamlined thanks to mobile devices. The Amazon Mobile Payments Service takes “1 click shopping” to the next level by letting users swipe to complete a purchase. Not to be outdone, Apple has also invited third party developers to take advantage of its TouchID service, a similar mobile checkout option.

1touch

What’s more, PayPal has also leapt into the fray, touting that mobile payments alone grew over 92% from 2012 to 2014. PayPal also partnered with Samsung to introduce biometric payments on their highly popular Galaxy S5 phone. But before you rush out and start swiping, you should know that it wasn’t long before the biometric scanner was successfully hacked.

Of course, needing to obtain one’s fingerprint (as well as know which finger they predominantly use to swipe) is still an issue, but expect to see more joint partnerships crop up between payment processors, app developers and mobile hardware manufacturers as ease-of-use shopping becomes more mainstream.

Even Responsive Design Can’t Save You, Says Study

Mobile responsive design has been heralded as the ultimate solution to end all your mobile conversion woes. Even we here at KISSmetrics embrace and encourage the use of mobile responsive design. But a new joint study from Internet Retailer and Keynote shows that mobile responsive design alone isn’t everything it claims to be.

For example, according to the Aberdeen Group, Inc., a one-second delay translates to a 7% loss in conversions. Following Internet Retailer’s example, if a mobile commerce merchant makes $100,000 a day from their site, that ends up being $2.5 million dollars lost. Not surprisingly, online retailers are clamoring for mobile optimization, and in their rush to deliver, developers are taking shortcuts.

The fact is, consumers expect to see and use a site that is a seamless transition from desktop to mobile, when, despite advances in mobile design, the foundation just isn’t there. In the study, responsive sites loaded quickly on desktops – an average of 3.15 seconds, and 2.80 seconds on tablets. But when it came to smartphones, the wait was an average of 18.24 seconds (using 3G and 4G connections).

In trying to deliver quickly, the article reveals that developers will often cut off parts of a site that they believe are contributing to heavy load times. But looking back at the consumers’ expectation of a seamless experience transitioning from desktop to smartphone serves only to end in frustration. That’s not to mention the introduction of key pieces of technology, such as CSS3, that are relatively new, so finding knowledgeable developers who can leverage this component to its fullest is still a challenge.

And although there’s no concrete formula for always delivering a prime, optimized experience that loads equally fast for everyone, you can’t fault developers for trying. Case in point – Yottaa, whose mobile engagement tweaks considerably cut down load time for their customers.

yottaa

With nearly a dozen case studies, and clients like Bayer and H&R Block, Yottaa is defining the building blocks that make mobile responsive sites load fast – even on smartphones. For example, they suggest:

  • Prioritizing elements on a page so that important pieces load first. This also involves breaking up an HTML file into smaller chunks, and sequencing what shows, when.
  • Loading images based on the profile of the device requesting them – higher resolution images for desktops and tablets, smaller resolutions for faster loading on smartphones.
  • Splitting a site off as a “smartphone only” version, rather than lumping it together with desktop and tablet responsive sites.

The Future is Now

Now that you know what’s ahead for mobile, payment processing and security, you can work toward building a more unified user experience for mobile, without slowing down the smartphone segment of the population. Just remember that for every shiny new gadget and feature out there, there’s the looming specter of privacy and security concerns. Although mobile is reaching greater and greater saturation in the market, it’s still very much like a toddler finding its legs – unsteady, uneasy and awkward at first.

By keeping these points in mind, you’ll be better prepared for when technology inevitably catches up with user and retailer demands, so that your site can convert like a pro – right from the start.

What are your thoughts on the new improvements, technology and findings from these studies? How do you think they’ll affect your conversion rates? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps businesses improve website design and increase conversions with user-focused design, compelling copywriting and smart analytics. Learn more at iElectrify and get your free conversion checklist and web copy tune-up. Follow @sherice on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ for more articles like this!

  1. Awesome article. I back almost all the points mentioned here. Conversion optimization has become a dynamic field and keeping a check on the mentioned points is highly important when it comes to increasing the conversion rate.

  2. Sylvia Parker Jul 24, 2014 at 7:36 am

    The wait time is so important here. If there’s one complaint I’ve heard about smartphones is that everything takes way longer to load than it does on a desktop or laptop. And as soon as a customer is forced to wait, the sooner they’ll ditch the process altogether to find something else to do. Notoriously short attention spans, right? Besides, they’re way to busy to wait around. I look forward to when mobile devices are just as fast as their at-home counterparts.

    • Sylvia, great points. I think it’s all about having patience but more often than not people don’t.

  3. “Although mobile is reaching greater and greater saturation in the market, it’s still very much like a toddler finding its legs – unsteady, uneasy and awkward at first.”

    Love that metaphor. There are so many challenges which means there are SO many opportunities to improve. I think the most exciting thing about CRO is how dynamic it is and that we have to continue to adapt to differing trends.

    That’s very interesting about page load times. I think this is something more and more people will look at in the future. Sometimes I wonder if abandonment due to slow page loads is truly because the user is “busy” or if there’s simply too many other “shiny objects” to distract them and take attention away.

    Great article.

  4. 1 complaint I’ve heard about smartphones is that everything takes way longer to load than it does on a desktop or iPad

  5. Stuart McMillan Nov 14, 2014 at 6:45 am

    It frustrates me to read about responsive websites being slow. We recently replaced our desktop and mobile sites with a single responsive site. Desktop page load time decreased by 73% and mobile by 58%. Neither of these sites were slow to start with.

    It’s easy to do responsive wrong and make it slow, but then again, it’s not *that* hard to make them fast. Is this really the state of the web dev industry?

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