Smartphone traffic on ecommerce sites has been skyrocketing for months, but conversions have lagged a long way behind tablets. The problems are obvious: fat fingers and small screens don’t mix well, whereas on tablets there it’s a lot more screen real estate. You can see this in the chart below, which compares the shopping cart conversion rate of different devices. The bigger the screen, the higher the conversion rate.
Ecommerce teams have become accustomed to tablets driving more sales than phones, despite significantly higher traffic from phones.
But in 2014 a new picture is quickly emerging because ecommerce sales on smartphones have been growing four times faster than those on tablets (up by 181% for phones in the 12 months to April 14, compared with a more leisurely 36% for tablets) according to new data from the SeeWhy Conversion Academy. In fact, we predict that more conversions will happen in Q3 on smartphones than on tablets for the first time if current growth rates are maintained.
You can see this trend in the chart on the right, which shows the share of mobile conversions by device type (mobile in this case is tablet + phone). Notice how fast phone conversions are growing as a proportion of the total mobile conversions (phone + tablet).
One year ago, phones made up only 22% of of mobile sales, but sales have almost doubled to 43% by April 2014.
There are three factors behind this rapid growth:
1. Smart phones outnumber tablets 4.3x
At the end of 2013 there were approximately 1.3 billion smartphones in the world, compared with only 300 million tablets. It’s likely that the number of smartphones will surpass the number of PCs this year as well.
Google isforecasting more than 1 billion Android devices alone in the world by the end of 2014. Even if only a tiny proportion of them start using them to buy, it’s easy to see why sales via phone will out strip tablets soon.
2. Mobile optimized sites.
Consumer research we did last year showed that 80% of visitors are uncomfortable purchasing on smartphones, compared with only 40% that feel uncomfortable purchasing on desktops. Yet many sites are now optimized to some extent for mobile, and this is making searching and converting easier, building confidence in buying by phone.
Mobile optimized sites are increasingly tackling the thorny issue of payments as well. Providing the ability to log into accounts with stored payment details for existing customers, and alternative payments for guests is transformational for mobile. Some sites are now driving up to 50% of the sales from mobile (smartphone and tablet) and all these sites have nailed the payment issue.
3. Larger screen sizes.
There is a trend towards larger screen sizes on phones, and this helps conversion. Samsung and others in the Android market have been aggressively marketing larger format phones, and you can see the effect on conversions. In the last few months, Android phones overall have been out converting Apple devices.
Looking forward, Apple are rumoured to be readying an iPhone 6 with a 4.7” screen which if shipped will undoubtedly drive phone conversions still higher.
Implications for web teams
Web teams are well aware of the need to optimize for mobile first, driven by massive increases in mobile traffic. However, since the beginning of 2014 we have been seeing the beginning of what may become a seismic shift where, in the future, phones will become the dominant conversion platform for ecommerce. It will take some time to get there, but it’s clear that we’re headed down that road already.