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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 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 2021 Ecommerce Stats & Trends Report, smartphone traffic worldwide in 2020 is 68% for mobile and 32% for desktop. Mobile traffic has increased slightly from 57% in 2019.  

Mobile and Desktop Online Traffic in 2020

Mobile and Desktop Online Sales 2020

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.

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.

Add-To-Cart Rates by Device in 2020

Conversion Rates by Device in 2020

People are also more likely to buy on a desktop when purchases are more complex. 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 checkout. 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

Share of Online Sales by Device and Sector 2020

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 

Payment methods 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 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 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 this 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.  

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


The 2021 Ecommerce Stats & Trends Report

The latest data on ecommerce trends and online customer behaviour

2021 Ecommerce Stats & Trends Report

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.