How steep are the barriers to smartphone checkout?

Discussion
Jan 08, 2018
Tom Ryan

While mobile has certainly expanded exponentially as a purchase influencer, consumers remain reluctant on pulling the trigger to make actual purchases. A university study explores a number of reasons why.

Many of the concerns from consumers were found to relate to screen size, including not being able to see the full picture on a mobile app, missing out on special offers or overlooking hidden costs, according to researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA). Privacy and security concerns can also motivate people to put items into their shopping baskets, but then quit without paying.

Analysis of 2016-2017 online shopping data from consumers in Taiwan and the U.S. similarly found that shoppers are much more likely to use mobile apps as a way of researching and organizing goods rather than as a purchasing tool, which also contributes to checkout hesitation.

“Our study results revealed a paradox,” said Dr. Nikolaos Korfiatis, of Norwich Business School at UEA. “Mobile shopping is supposed to make the process easier, and yet concerns about making the right choice, or about whether the site is secure enough leads to an ’emotional ambivalence’ about the transaction — and that mean customers are much more likely to simply abandon their shopping carts without completing a purchase.”

The results, published in the Journal of Business Research, show that consumers are much less likely to abandon their shopping baskets if they are satisfied with the choice process. App designers can help by minimizing clutter to include only necessary elements on the device’s limited screen space and organizing sites via effective product categorization or filter options so consumers can find products more easily.

Other strategies that might prompt a shopper to complete a purchase include adding special offers, or coupons for a nearby store, at the checkout stage.

“Retailers need to invest in technology, but they need to do it in the right way, so the investment pays off,” added Dr. Korfiatis. “Customers are becoming more and more demanding and, with mobile shopping in particular, they don’t forgive failures so offering a streamlined, integrated service is really important.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What suggestions would you have for improving conversion rates on smartphones? Do you see the “emotional ambivalence” about making purchases on mobile devices identified in the study as a long-term challenge for mobile shopping?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"To improve conversion retailers should improve their UX but also create mobile specific incentives that will make shoppers buy on mobile."
"Typically the online buying process on a smartphone is OK up to the actual purchase process. Then it often fails miserably. "
"If retailers could just commit the resources they need to optimise correctly for mobile, there’s no reason why sales won’t take off."

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19 Comments on "How steep are the barriers to smartphone checkout?"


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Phil Masiello
BrainTrust

There is always going to be some ambivalence on the part of the consumer when they are providing financial details online. But that is not the biggest barrier to mobile checkout.

The issue lies with the e-commerce sites themselves. The sites need to make the checkout easier with a one-page checkout form. And the sites need to provide one-click payment for returning customers who are logged in and other payment options like PayPal.

Take a page from the Amazon playbook on this subject. Look at how simple they make checkout using their app when the customer is logged in. Their mobile conversion rates are not much different than desktop.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Phil — I was just about to write a response based on my own Amazon app shopping experience! I agree, it really comes down to the user experience. The checkout process must be easy enough to not put off consumers from clicking through that final buy button.

Phil Masiello
BrainTrust

I agree with you 100%

Art Suriano
BrainTrust
There is no doubt that mobile has limitations mainly because of screen size. Security is also a concern. However, technology continues to improve and security will get better. As for screen size, we are only years away from our phone becoming our computer as it will easily connect to a bigger screen and keyboard through Bluetooth or the next new wireless connection. This convenience will replace the laptop which we will no longer need. So my advice to retailers is invest in good mobile but be careful because technology changes very quickly and what seems to be a must-have today in a short period can become a thing of the past. Keep your mobile apps or sites easy to use. For consumer appeal, be creative to motivate the customer to either make the sale or come to the store through an incentive. Of course, they can continue the purchase online when they wish so you should consider an offer for that. Through the app or mobile site, you should be able to email them a… Read more »
Max Goldberg
Guest

Retailers need to simplify their apps so consumers feel confident about completing a purchase. Simplifying can mean presenting information up front so there are fewer hesitations; providing purchase, tax, shipping and return details in an easy-to-read and understand format. It does not mean haranguing a consumer to complete a purchase through additional offers — which only raises doubts about whether the initial decision to visit a site/app was wise.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

The mobile checkout process of different retailers is in the public domain. Any retailer that wishes to offer mobile checkout can try a variety of websites or stores and cherry pick the features and function that appear to be the most streamlined and least fraught with nuisance or trepidation. Screen size is a consideration and so the design becomes as much of an exercise in ergonomics and human interaction as a potential marketing effort. The mobile payment choices make it very easy and secure to complete the transaction and those need not be proprietary.

Nir Manor
BrainTrust

Mobile commerce is mainly about UX/simplicity of use and about trusting the retailer/brand that owns the app. We can look at China, where mobile payment already became the mainstream channel, as the future of m-commerce. It happens because of WeChat — which is trustworthy and simple to use. To improve conversion retailers should improve their UX but also create mobile specific incentives that will make shoppers buy on mobile — even small baskets at the beginning which will help them trust the system and try it again with a larger purchase.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

First, it has to work — flawlessly. No glitches or issues. Second, the navigation of the mobile site has to be intuitive and easy. Third, checkout has to be a breeze. Make it easy, painless and an experience that creates confidence, not fear or concern.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Trust and transparency are the keys to eliminating any friction related to the smartphone checkout process. In addition, the mobile app developers have to bring their technology up to speed to enable both the thumbprint and facial recognition software to tie together to the retailer’s sites.

One of the more significant contributors to cart abandonment continues to be the checkout process. Amazon has seemingly perfected this by removing any friction to the checkout process and enabling a safe, easy and secure way to check out.

Remove the clicks, mitigate the fears, gain the consumers trust and they will come back for more!

Stuart Jackson
Guest
Right now, conversion rates on mobile are pretty poor but I’m not convinced this is necessarily a long-term challenge for retailers. Obviously, many customers, especially those thinking about making larger purchases, are hyper-aware of the security angle. Back in 2015, for example, Talk Talk in the U.K. was subject to a hack that affected more than 157,000 customers’ details, so this is still fresh in many people’s minds – but this memory will fade as long as there aren’t too many more big smartphone scandals. Mobiles are getting bigger and the boundaries between tablet and smartphone functionally are blurring, so retailers have this on their side going forward. And it needs to be: e-commerce sales made with a tablet quadrupled between 2012 and 2015, but just doubled on smartphones. But many retailers are still playing catch-up when it comes to mobile optimisation. All retailers know online sales are key but many have just not given enough thought to mobile. When you try a perfectly good PC site on a smartphone you’re invariably faced with a… Read more »
Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Typically the online buying process on a smartphone is OK up to the actual purchase process. Then it often fails miserably. Information such as Max mentioned is hard to find and even harder to read on a smartphone screen. Customers don’t want to have to search to find this information. It should be part of the natural flow of the purchase process. Admittedly all of this is easier to do on a larger screen where there is more display area. If retailers want their smartphone conversation rates to go up then they have to find a way to do it in the space available.

Phil Chang
BrainTrust
Phil Chang
Retail Influencer, Speaker and Consultant
2 years 2 months ago

I think this is where omnichannel or “multi-channel” comes into play. If I have confidence walking up to your cash register in a brick-and-mortar store, I should have the same confidence tapping my way to your e-commerce checkout. If don’t, you’ve changed something in the process and you need to isolate it to make your experience the same.

For each retailer this will be something different. It might be mobile-enabled pages so I’m not scrolling all over the place, or it might be the pages leading up to the purchase page. Anyone can put up an e-commerce site and anyone can put in a checkout cart and buy button. Only a retailer can make a buy page look like their store!

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

It’s funny to me when I think of television commercials that show mocked-up mobile app screen shots that show simple, two-or-so-button selections and large-font screens that are used to check out. Yet in real life, the vast majority of apps require real concentration on the shopper’s part to make the transaction go smoothly. If more retailers and financial transaction organization could make further improvements in these apps/websites, then that would be a great move forward in widespread consumer adoption.

I see this evolving in the near term, leveraging some technologies available today to help drive conversion rates, reduce abandoned carts, etc.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

When screen size is listed as the number one reason for hesitation on making a mobile purchase, this tells me it’s really about UI design and ease of use for the shopper. A well-designed mobile app that’s not cluttered, and feels like it provides something more than just a web browser wrapped in an app with an easy checkout process, will produce the best results.

If I look at Amazon’s mobile app I’d say it meets all of these requirements. Perhaps the most important one being easy checkout. If a shopper spends any meaningful amount of time researching a purchase decision on mobile they don’t want to trudge through a long checkout procedure — especially if they are a repeat customer at that retailer. For most consumers, apps imply “easy” vs other interfaces so retailers need to deliver on this experience.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust
Doug Garnett
President, Protonik
2 years 2 months ago

There’s been a lot of discussion about “eliminating friction” to make ordering easier. And the hype in that discussion has suggested mobile checkout as the ultimate answer.

Yet friction delivers consumer value. We rely on friction at point-of-sale/point-of-purchase to help us control our budgets, to help us avoid spending money on ill considered purchases and to reduce waste of money.

We must not forget this. Companies, of course, want consumers to find it easier and easier to spend their money. But there’s a line we shouldn’t cross — that line where consumers come to believe we are encouraging them to waste money. Any brand, retailer or company who crosses that line will quickly see their market value diminish.

Glenn Cantor
Guest
2 years 2 months ago

There has to be a unique benefit to mobile purchases in order for people to be encouraged to use a mobile device to buy things. As it is now, it is not altogether inconvenient to wait to use a larger screen or even to wait until I am in a physical store.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

Retailers need to make the screens more focused on the product and the purchasing process with less clutter considering the small screen size. Of course this makes the developers create different screens for large and smaller devices. Also the path to a purchase needs to be easy with very few steps including optionally saving personal information. The emotional ambivalence comes from displaying too much information in a small space and making the consumer uncomfortable with the purchase. If the product and ordering process jumps out at the consumer and is easy, there will be less ambivalence and more propensity to order. This issue will go away over time as younger people who have grown up on small screens are purchasing through their smartphones.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

This reminds me of the barriers to buying online that were first encountered. I always thought the airlines handled their transition to digital better than anyone else with humans showing you how it worked. Matter of fact, they are still there to show you the way or to check in however you’d like. Eventually, 90% of travelers came around to using the machines and now most use the apps as well. The reps migrated from clerks to customer service reps, which is where retail needs to go as well.

Let humans guide the process at first and/or urge the users/non-users to participate, emphasizing the ease and convenience. And in this day and age, stressing that no one’s job is being replaced, they’re just changing to better serve. Again, using the airline model, you can see that there’s still plenty of reps there to help solve problems.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

My suggestion is to stop worrying about it. It’s entirely possible there never will be any (mass) “conversion” because it’s not something people want to do … and I’m struggling to see how the world would be worse off — or even any different — if that’s the case.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"To improve conversion retailers should improve their UX but also create mobile specific incentives that will make shoppers buy on mobile."
"Typically the online buying process on a smartphone is OK up to the actual purchase process. Then it often fails miserably. "
"If retailers could just commit the resources they need to optimise correctly for mobile, there’s no reason why sales won’t take off."

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