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Why Are Mobile Conversion Rates Behind Desktop?

Why Are Mobile Conversion Rates Behind Desktop?


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Mobile now accounts for the majority of visits to retailers, but mobile conversion rates lag behind desktop but only slightly and it depends what sector we look at. We analyse the reasons for mobile conversion rate lagging behind desktop and we look at why cart abandonment is higher on mobile but in the same breath we look at how and why mobile conversion rates in the UK and beyond have increased from their 2019 positions. 

Although a significant portion of online traffic is coming from a mobile device the mobile conversion rates are lagging behind slightly. However, this trend has been happening for the past few years.  

A decade on from the release of the first iPhone, mobile shopping is massive. Much of this is thanks to Apple, and the many smartphones which followed, but there are still obstacles to mobile commerce. 

According to stats from the SaleCycle 2022 Ecommerce Stats & Trends Report, smartphone traffic worldwide in 2020 was 68% for mobile and 32% for desktop, which has slightly improved for mobile on 2021 with 71% on mobile.  

online traffic mobile vs desktop


online sales mobile vs desktop 2022

Mobile sales is at 56% which is over half of all sales, however the mobile conversion rate growth isn’t as significant traffic growth. 

According to Monetate Q1 report 2020, global mobile conversion rates were at 1.81% with desktop at 1.98% and tablets at 2.92%. Mobile conversion rate in the UK, however, is slightly higher at 3.50% compared to desktop at 3.14%. In 2019 mobile traffic was converting at less than half the rate of that on desktop, at 2.25% compared to 4.81% for desktop. Even tablets fared better, converting at 4.06% on average.

It seems that people are happy to browse on mobile, but many still prefer to buy on desktop, so let’s look at the reasons why. We also want to understand the reason for browse abandonment and what we can do to stop this happening.

There are several reasons why people prefer to buy on a laptop or PC. For one, it can be easier to navigate around a site and view images on a bigger screen, so some shoppers may browse on mobile and select products later on. Having said this brands must improve their mobile user experience, optimising mobile forms around the checkout funnel could have a major impact. View the mobile form design examples to see how you can do this. 

Add-To-Cart Rates by Device in 2020

Conversion Rates by Device in 2020

People more likely to buy on a desktop when purchases are more complex. As well as learning what device they will likely buy on it’s also beneficial to know when people shop online. Travel purchases for example, are generally more expensive and complicated – only 18% complete bookings on mobile. You can see below that share of traffic on travel websites is higher on mobile but online sales isn’t. Much of the issue comes down to the ecommerce checkout process. Indeed, the add to cart rates shown above suggest this. 

The average mobile add to cart rate in 2019 was 10.4%, compared to 12.9% for desktop. This implies that people were adding items to their cart at similar rates.

The average mobile add-to-cart rates in 2020 is 8.96% compared to 4.35% on desktop. This implies users are adding products to their cart at a much healthier rate on mobile in 2020. However, conversions rates on mobile are still behind conversion rates on desktop.

Share of Traffic by Device and by Sector

We can see from the two share of traffic by device and industry charts that mobile has been gaining more market share in all sectors. The biggest swing has been in retail, with mobile traffic growing by 5% in just one year.

online traffic by device and industry 2021


Share of Online Sales by Device and Sector 2020

Mobile vs desktop conversion rates have slightly improved, which makes sense given the growth of mobile traffic. However there’s still growth to be had in all sectors for mobile sales, specifically in Travel and Retail.

share of sales mobile vs desktop

Why is this happening? The biggest issue behind lower mobile conversions is the checkout process. So how can checkout be made easier? Here are 5 ways to increase your mobile conversion rate compared to desktop.

How To Increase Mobile Conversion Rate: 5 Ways?

Create A Guest Checkout

The first is creating a guest checkout. People hate registering before they begin a purchase, and it seems like hard work for mobile shoppers, so providing a guest checkout option is one way to improve conversion rates.

It’s a barrier for customers, and one that isn’t necessary, as they can complete registration after purchase anyway. Making forms easier and faster reduces hassle for shoppers, and reduces sources of friction where people might abandon checkout. This shows the importance of customer service because making the user experience easier for your customers will increase your customer loyalty and retention. 

Autofill Forms 

Sites can allow users to autofill address and payment details saved on their phone’s browser, or postcode lookup tools to reduce the number steps customers need to take.

Small details matter, such as defaulting to the most appropriate smartphone keyboard, like the numeric version for entering payment card details. It’s about making it easier for customers through marginal improvements.

Mobile is a challenge for retailers, but now that customers have shown they’re willing to browse and buy on mobile, it’s all about making the payment process smooth and easy for shoppers.

Include A Variety of Payment Methods 

Ecommerce payment options matter too, and providing alternatives can make it easier for mobile shoppers. Card details take time to enter, but PayPal and digital wallet options like Apple Pay can make payment fast and smooth.

Mobile is a challenge for retailers, but now that customers have shown they’re willing to browse and buy on mobile, it’s all about making the payment process smooth and easy for shoppers.

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Product Recommendations 

Showing product recommendations on your best ecommerce product pages is a great way to increase your average order value by cross-selling and upselling further items. On desktop there is normally quite a big piece of real estate to use as well as using the cookie data to offer more personalised recommendations. For example it would improve the user experience and help engage your customers if you inject products based off the user’s browsing history. 

Clear Call To Action Buttons 

It’s also important to make sure all of your calls to actions are optimised. This is part of your conversion rate optimisation strategy. You can test and analyse your ecommerce CTA buy buttons and add-to-cart buttons for page placements, colour, shape and sizes. Using HotJar is a great way to track the success of your buttons. Be aware that your users will have to work harder on mobile using scroll to browse and then finally make a purchase. 

One way to improve the ecommerce customer journey is to make your buttons sticky while your users scroll. Sticky buttons are available on third- party solutions but are also easy to implement even if you’re not a coder.  

Increase Mobile Conversion Rate by Improving the Checkout Process 

If lower mobile conversion rates are due to checkout, what can websites do to address this issue?

In short, it’s about ensuring that the process works as well as possible on mobile, and that the work of completing forms is minimal.

Improve Mobile Forms

Well designed mobile forms can make a big difference to conversion. They reduce friction, make requirements clear to users, and minimise basket abandonment.

Forms need to be easy to complete on mobile, with good visual design, clear labels and helpful error messaging as well as being as short as possible to reduce user effort.

Add Shortcuts for Mobile Users

Any features that reduce effort help, and this is where retailers can use some smartphone features to their advantage.

For example, passport or credit card scanning options can save users the effort of entering data, and reduce effort during checkout.

Little details, such as defaulting to the most appropriate touchscreen keyboard for each field (as Monsoon does for phone number entry) or using autofill to populate form fields all help to save time by making data entry easier.

Simplify the Booking Process

Of the sectors shown in the data above, travel faces the biggest challenge on mobile, as it’s generally more complicated to book travel than many retail purchases.

Holidays, for example, may require the choice of hotels and flights, and users need to enter data such as passport numbers, traveller details and in-flight options in addition to the usual address and payment data.

For mobile, the key is to make the online travel booking process as mobile-friendly as possible, with forms designed for mobile.

For example, single column design and larger form fields, as on this Best Western checkout form, allow users to enter data and minimise user errors.

Smartphone features can also be used to simplify the process by speeding up data entry and reducing user effort and friction

For example, the scanning function on easyJet’s mobile app scans and populates the user’s passport data in around 20 seconds.

Mobile Conversion Messaging

Whether visitors are using mobile or desktop, conversion rate optimisation methods such as the use of urgency can still help to increase sales.

It’s important to ensure that these methods are designed for mobile too. Here, DFDS uses trends data to show the popularity of the cruise being considered, as well as offering to save booking details for later.

Saving details is important, especially in travel where people will often visit and abandon bookings before making a final decision.

Saving details allows retailers or travel sites to email customers to remind them of their booking, and helps to keep their brand in mind.

Urgency marketing such as countdown timers can also be used in mobile emails, highlighting the time before a sales period or special offer ends for example.

Provide a Choice of Payment Methods

A big part of checkout on mobile is entering payment details. This can be more time-consuming and potentially frustrating on a smaller screen, so any shortcuts help.

One option is to save customer payment details where possible, so they can login and checkout without the need to enter address and card details.

Another way is to provide a choice of payment options which offer useful shortcuts.

Popular digital wallet methods such as PayPal and Amazon Pay, as well as newer options from Visa and Mastercard mean that checkout is shortened to entering an email address and password.

Mobile methods such as Apple Pay and Google Pay can be even easier, with just the use of Face ID or a fingerprint scan to complete payment.

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Reviewed by Brad Ward
Written by Graham Charlton
— Updated on 19/04/2021



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Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is Editor in Chief at SaleCycle. He's been covering ecommerce and digital marketing for more than a decade, having previously written reports and articles for Econsultancy. ClickZ, Search Engine Watch and more.