Email drives almost two thirds of mobile conversions


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Mobile conversions on smartphones and tablets grew rapidly in 2013, and now account for 19% of ecommerce conversions, representing a growth rate of 46% over the last 6 months. This growth can be attributed to widespread adoption of smartphones and tablets, ‘always on’ shopping, and changing consumer behavior.

One element that is often overlooked in understanding mobile conversions is the traffic source. Analysis by the SeeWhy Conversion Academy team of more than 150m web events in December shows that a staggering 62% of smartphone conversions came from an email.

By contrast, 21% followed a link to the site and arrived on a product page, 12% went Linkimagestraight to the site by entering the web address, and 5% via a search engine (though this is probably understated due to Google’s obfuscation of search terms).

That almost two thirds of conversions come from an email is a significant finding for marketers looking to drive more conversions on mobile.

There are two main reasons for email being so dominant in driving mobile conversions:

(1) Remarketing emails carry identity and context across devices

A consumer that browses on a desktop device but doesn’t purchase, and then receives a remarketing email will more than likely open it on their mobile device – more than 50% of consumer emails are now opened on a mobile device. Clicking through from the email passes both their identity (in the form of their email address) as well as products they were browsing or were added to their online shopping cart. This enables the shopping cart to be reconstructed on the mobile device, recreating the desktop session and enabling them to pick up from where they left off. The passed through identity also means that the session can be personalized, and when it comes to checking out, eliminates the need to enter account (and possibly payment and address) details.

(2) Email eliminates searching on a small screen

Users search for products, add them to the shopping cart and convert on desktop devices and tablets in similar ways. On smartphones however their behaviour is very different: only 8% of sessions result in a product being added cart, reflecting the increased difficulty in searching for and choosing products on small screen. However, clicking through from an email eliminates this search process completely, especially where a remarketing email is used.


What this suggests is that mobile conversions come less from browsing, and are beginning to be used as a conversion device where the product selection has already been made, but wasn’t completed for a range of reasons. This hints at an exciting future where mobile can be used as a critical conversion device, because users often have time to spare when on mobile. But for this to become a widespread behavior, mobile devices, especially smartphones need to be dramatically easier to make purchases on than they are today.

The problem on smartphones is in the checkout process. You can see this in the traffic funnels diagram above. For every 100 visitors arriving on an ecommerce site via a smartphone, 99.5% won’t make a purchase, and only 8 will reach the shopping cart. Of those eight, 94% will abandon, the majority at the next page – which is typically the login / register page. This is significantly different from desktop where ‘only’ 76% abandon.

There is a huge range in the checkout processes on mobile on different ecommerce sites: some sites are generating 1% or less of their sales from mobile, while others are generating more than 40%.

Our research suggests that ecommerce teams should focus on four key initiatives to drive mobile conversions:

  • Trigger Browse and Cart remarketing emails when users abandon

Remarketing emails are proven to generate a very high ROI on all devices, nudging visitors and prompting them to complete a purchase started earlier, often on a different device. Remarketing emails also make conversion easy, eliminating the need to repeat a search that was completed on a different device, and carrying the visitor’s identity across devices.

  • Checkout optimizations: shorter checkout processes for mobile customers

Many mobile sites use the same checkout flow as the desktop site. This is a mistake. The mobile checkout flow (on smartphone in particular) needs to eliminate all possible steps to be as short as possible.

  • Storing payment, billing and shipping details

Logging in, entering shipping, billing and payment details accurately on small screen is a major cause of mobile abandonment. Enabling existing customers to log into their account easily where address and payment details are already stored is critical to driving mobile conversions. This enables customers to purchase with a few clicks and only password needed to be entered. Coupled with email remarketing, this will transform your mobile conversions.

  • Alternative payment checkouts for new customers

Alternative payments (such as PayPal, Google Wallet, MasterPass etc.) provide an alternative (and significantly shorter) checkout process for new customers. On smartphones we’ve seen an average 101% increase in conversion when alternative payments are used. Note however that it’s critical that these are treated as an alternative checkout flow, to eliminate the need to enter identity, billing and shipping address. This means implementing alternative payments high up the funnel, not on the payment page.

Ecommerce teams have known for a long time that email is one of the most critical channels for diving conversions, and we now know that this extends to mobile in dramatic fashion. Email is the single most important source of mobile conversions, and when coupled with checkout optimizations can drive dramatic increases in mobile revenues, especially on smartphones.

Customers using smart phones are currently 4 times less likely to make a purchase than on a desktop, and three times less likely than on a tablet. There are signs that this is beginning to change, but ecommerce teams still have a long way to go to make checkout processes mobile friendly. When they do, the impact is enormous.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Charles Nicholls
Charles Nicholls is a social commerce expert and board advisor to several e-commerce startups. He founded SeeWhy, a real-time personalization and machine learning platform, which was sold to SAP. Serving as SVP of product, he built SAP Upscale Commerce, an e-commerce platform for direct-to-consumer brands and the mid-market. Today, Charles serves as chief strategy officer for SimplicityDX, a commerce experience company. He has worked on strategy and projects for leading ecommerce companies worldwide, including Amazon, eBay, Google and many others.


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