MarketLive Performance Index: Mobile sales zoom as holiday season peaks

As the peak holiday period passes the midpoint, the latest data from the MarketLive Performance Index shows that merchants are continuing to achieve year-over-year revenue gains — with the biggest spoils going to those brands who’ve optimized their mobile experiences.

In the week that started with CyberMonday, shoppers flocked to mobile devices to browse deals and make purchases. A whopping 43% of all online traffic was on mobile devices, and those visits generated 24% of total online revenues. While tablet revenues increased year-over-year by an impressive 42%, smartphone revenue growth was even more impressive, at 107%, accounting for $1 out of every $10 spent online.


Overall, seasonal growth remains steady, with merchants seeing revenue gains of more than 9% on increased traffic of more than 18%. But while the add-to-cart rate is showing a modest year-over-year increase of 1.3%, the conversion rate has slipped by two-tenths of a percentage point, for a drop of 5%.

The gap suggests that merchants are missing the opportunity to win sales from highly-qualified shoppers who’ve engaged with the site, identified relevant products, and gone so far as to place them in the cart.

Usage of the cart to to research total order costs is likely partly to blame; past research suggests that more than half of shoppers add items to the cart with no intention of buying in the first place, and a similar percentage use the cart to stash items for further perusal later — an activity that has doubtless spiked as shoppers research on phones and complete purchases on desktop or laptop computers, or in stores.

But with the explosive growth in mobile visits and sales, mobile usage is likely contributing to the conversion gap in another way as well — thanks to checkout experiences that are cumbersome on smaller touchscreens. Indeed, half of online consumers say “easier checkout” would spur them to buy more via mobile devices, while a third specifically cited one-click checkout, according to the 2014 MarketLive Consumer Shopping Survey.

While it’s far too late to streamline checkout processes for this year’s peak season, merchants whose holiday mobile numbers are lackluster so far may be able to institute small changes that have big potential to smooth the mobile path to purchase — and salvage sales. Worth considering:

Prominent customer service messaging. The mobile checkout process should include a prominent link to customer service throughout, including a live chat option and preferably with click-to-call functionality built in.  Merchants who don’t already display that information should investigate whether they can adjust their checkout templates.

Promotion of account creation and wish lists. Another way to combat cart abandonment is to offer viable alternatives for researchers who wish to save items for later access across touchpoints. Merchants should consider promoting wish list and account creation, using prominent messaging in the cart, in email campaigns and on social media to get the message across.

MarketLive merchant The Room Place encourages mobile users to save cart contents with a prominent button. Shoppers who click the link are invited to create an account with a streamlined form that doesn’t require entering delivery or billing addresses or other extraneous data.



Watch for more holiday results updates through Christmas and a season-end wrap-up after the New Year.

Holiday tip #8: Make mobile tools prominent across touchpoints

With mobile poised to play a dominant role in holiday shopping, merchants should maximize visibility of their mobile offerings by promoting at critical junctures across touchpoints.

The facts

Proof of the power of mobile is everywhere. Statistics show that not only are shoppers using their mobile devices to consult product information and look up store hours, but they’re increasingly making purchases on the go, with 24% of total revenues now attributable to mobile, according to the MarketLive Performance Index.

The holidays present an especially ripe opportunity for mobile engagement, as shoppers are bustling to physical stores to take advantage of seasonal deals as well as intensifying their online purchasing. Last year, mobile visits grew 34% and mobile sales grew 43% on Black Friday alone, and all indications are that this year will see even greater gains.

The action item

Mobile offerings are increasingly integral to merchants’ online offerings — so integral that many brands don’t even promote them separately. But merchants who’ve worked hard to optimize their mobile offerings should promote them as a brand differentiator, and even those with basic mobile sites should let holiday shoppers know they can at least look up store hours and reach customer service on the go.

The key is to place mobile prompts in spots most likely to reach engaged shoppers looking to stay in touch. Top locations include:

  • Black Friday preview pages. Shoppers already scoping out deals are likely to appreciate the opportunity to check in on the go throughout the season.
  • Store locator pages. Let shoppers know they can access the product information and buying advice on the eCommerce site when on the go.
  • Social media. Well over half of all social media consumption occurs on mobile devices, so merchants should promote mobile offerings to brand followers.
  • Mobile sites. It may seem redundant to promote mobile offerings on mobile, but merchants with apps should be sure their mobile Web sites point visitors to the download.
  • Welcome emails. New subscribers who’ve signed up to receive holiday seals should be introduced to all the brand’s offerings, including the availability of mobile purchasing or apps. MarketLive merchant Design Within Reach promotes its iPad app prominently in the first email new subscribers receive, listing the mobile feature alongside shopping categories in the message body’s top navigation.

Example of mobile promo in email from DWR

Holiday tip #2: Tailor mobile images for lightning speed

Another year of explosive growth is on the horizon for mobile holiday shopping. But merely having a mobile site isn’t enough: merchants must deliver lightning-fast response times or risk losing their opportunity to grow mobile engagement and sales.

The facts

When it comes to mobile shopping, consumers’ expectations are high, with 85% expecting mobile pages to load as fast or faster than a desktop site, according to Radware. Close to three-quarters of consumers expect mobile pages to load in five seconds or less, according to performance monitoring firm Gomez — but retail mobile site response times currently average more than 13 seconds as measured by the Keynote Index.

Failure to meet these expectations isn’t merely a matter of consumer frustration; performance impacts revenues, too. A one-second delay in mobile page-load time produced an 8.3% increase in the bounce rate and a 3.5% reduction in conversion rate, Radware found.

The action item

Even at this late juncture, merchants can make changes to improve holiday mobile site performance by focusing on the top cause of performance slowdowns: images. With pages averaging more than 1.9 MB, close to two-thirds of that weight — 1.2 MB — comes from images, according to the HTTP Archive. To drive down image size:

  • Study analytics to identify which devices are driving up load times and use a testing tool such as SizerSoze to test pages using those devices’ breakpoints. By identifying specific problematic image/device combinations, merchants can pinpoint solutions without rewriting all their code.
  • Prioritize static image content. Merchants should ensure that featured product images load first, while resource-heavy content such as video calls, animated .gifs and embedded social media video or images are downpage and load in subsequent server calls.
  • Use progressive .jpgs. With perception as well as actual load time being a crucial factor in how consumers rate mobile page speed, using a progressive .jpg — which loads the whole photo at a lower resolution, then sharpens it, as opposed to loading image fragments one by one — can boost shoppers’ satisfaction with site performance.

MarketLive merchant Cost Plus World Market strikes a balance with image rendering on its mobile site by featuring a rich primary image on the product page and making secondary images available via a slide show shoppers can swipe through. By comparison, on the desktop site thumbnails of each image are loaded.

World Market mobile example World Market exampleWatch for 10 more holiday tips on the blog through Black Friday, and read up on winning strategies in MarketLive’s holiday whitepapers.

Performance Index: Proof mobile-ready merchants will be the winners this holiday season

We’ve long been advocates of mobile commerce competence, and past editions of the MarketLive Performance Index have underscored why: the past year has seen a surge of mobile traffic, but until now mobile revenues have lagged, suggesting merchants must do more to inspire shoppers to complete purchases via their devices.

But third-quarter results suggests that merchants are finally hitting their stride. Not only did mobile traffic surge again to account for 43% of all shopping visits, but mobile revenue jumped to 24% of the total — with the most significant increase coming from smartphone purchases, which grew 110% year over year to account for 11% of all purchases. Tablet revenues comprised 13% of all purchases for an increase of 18% year over year — still an impressive gain, but one that’s dwarfed by the smartphone growth.

Data from the MarketLIve Performance INdex

While the top-line numbers are impressive, a deeper dive into the data shows that plenty of opportunity still exists to capitalize fully on mobile audience growth. After all, more than 40% of traffic is now generated by smartphones and tablets — but low conversion and high abandonment rates plague mobile sites, resulting in failure to earn immediate revenues from mobile interactions. The 0.90% conversion rate for smartphones caused the overall Index conversion rate to drop by 2.7% to 2.05%; the smartphone cart abandonment rate was 83% — 20% higher than on desktop sites.

Still, as merchants head into the holiday season, the Index data suggest that those who’ve worked to optimize mobile offerings have reason to expect strong results. And for those with sub-par experiences, the Index results add fuel to the argument that mobile is 2015’s top priority.

Regardless of whether merchants offer a cutting-edge mobile experience or are getting by with limited mobile resources, they can still take advantage of the holiday season to advance their mobile goals. Two last-minute tactics to adopt:

Promote what you have. As discussed previously, all the mobile savvy in the world won’t pay off unless shoppers know it’s available to them. Merchants should double-check their social media presence, email campaign lineup and eCommerce site supporting content to ensure that mobile receives prominent mention.

Track performance wins and gaps. To justify 2015 investment in mobile, merchants should closely track usage of existing mobile tools. Not only should they attempt to capture any traffic and sales growth, but they should also provide data on where performance gaps hindered purchasing and what mobile content proved most engaging.

Download the full Performance Index report for industry-specific data, mobile analysis and more. And watch this space for further holiday tips in the countdown to Black Friday, including last-minute mobile tactics that can boost sales and engagement.

Making the case for responsive design – from ROI Magazine

While we’re on the topic of 2015 priorities, now seems the ideal time to revisit responsive design. Building a single code base to serve different versions of merchant sites depending on whether shoppers are using mobile devices or desktop/laptop computers is not a project to be undertaken lightly.

But as MarketLive CEO Ken Burke argues in a recent edition of Retail Online Integration Magazine, for most merchants responsive design represents the best solution for navigating a multi-touchpoint commerce landscape.

Burke writes:

“Most merchants can’t afford to build or manage new platforms for every new device to come down the pike, but responsive commerce uses templates that can easily be adapted and optimized for all existing devices as well as those around the corner, effectively ‘future proofing’ sites by preparing them for changes ahead.”

Mobile site experience improvements due to responsive design implementations for MarketLive clients have resulted in mobile conversion rate improvements of up to 100 percent, Burke reports. With most merchants still seeing mobile traffic far outpace mobile revenue, it’s clear that most eCommerce sites could benefit from such a lift.

While responsive is a worthy project to consider — especially in tandem with a redesign or replatforming project that also requires significant code changes — Burke cautions the move may not be right for everyone. The investment in time and dollars is significant, and merchants whose target audience largely doesn’t shop via mobile device yet may be able to justify delay.

“Every organization will have to make its own careful assessment of the pros and cons of responsive commerce before making the call,” Burke writes. At the end of the day, however, Burke considers responsive design implementation to be “a necessary cost of doing business in a multidevice world.”

The upcoming holiday season is an ideal time to gather data to support a responsive redesign. Merchants should track device usage, mobile revenue, the influence of mobile touchpoints on in-store sales — as well as “lost opportunity” data such as mobile cart and checkout abandonment and “bounce” rates — to quantify how responsive could boost holiday sales in 2015.

Read the full ROI Magazine article for a comprehensive overview of responsive design, including checklists of pros and cons.

Will you implement responsive design in the year ahead — or have you done it already? Why or why not?

Webinar recap: what savvy multi-touchpoint shoppers seek this holiday season

The so-called “360-degree view” of the customer is something of a holy grail for merchants. When it comes to presenting shoppers with relevant products and offers, sellers aim to combine data from in-store, online and mobile activity to create a holistic understanding of how their customers behave.

Last week’s 2014 MarketLive Consumer Shopping Survey webinar revealed that the “360-degree view” is important to shoppers, too — but with a twist. As consumers become more savvy and conduct shopping research on mobile devices as well as on desktop computers and in stores, they favor brands that present a unified message across touchpoints, making consistency a crucial differentiator this holiday season.

When asked which components of the brand experience should be consistent and which could be different, a high percentage of consumers said consistency was ideal nearly across the board.

Shopping survey results

Perhaps not surprisingly given holiday shoppers’ hunger for good deals, survey participants reported seeking consistent product pricing, free shipping offers and other promotional discounts across touchpoints. Close to 80% of participants said product assortment was also important; in particular, 45% of shoppers said that a comprehensive product assortment would encourage them to purchase more on mobile devices.

At the same time, exclusive or unique offers continue to appeal to shoppers as an incentive to engage with brands. For example, an exclusive discount available only to followers ranked second only to free shipping as the type of incentive that would spur purchasing via a social networking site. And merchants frequently dangle the lure of exclusive discounts as a reason to sign up for email alerts.

Striking a balance between the demand for consistency and the desire for touchpoint-specific perks requires promotional finesse. To achieve it, merchants should follow these guidelines:

Merchants should message with absolute consistency across touchpoints on:


  • Product pricing and pricing guarantees. With fully 90% of shoppers saying they consult Amazon to check prices even when purchasing elsewhere online, it’s crucial for merchants to deliver the same price in stores that shoppers see on their mobile devices, for example.
  • Site-wide free shipping policies. With free shipping remaining the top promotion shoppers seek, whether via eCommerce sites or on social media, offers such as free shipping above a threshold and free ship-to-store services should be universally and prominently messaged.
  • Key customer service information. Shoppers rate guaranteed delivery and free returns as crucial when deciding which brands to patronize, with 49% rating both as “most important”. The overall flexibility of the return policy and the availability of delivery timelines were sought by 41% and 27%, respectively.


Merchants have leeway to offer by touchpoint:

  • Sneak peeks at exclusive or new products. More than half of shoppers said access to exclusive products would spur them to purchase via social networks, for example.
  • Flash sale items. Email alerts promoting limited-time offers can motivate shoppers to engage with brands more frequently throughout the season.
  • Loyalty or rewards points tie-ins. Close to 60% of shoppers said loyalty rewards offered via social media would prompt them to make purchases, while 46% said the availability of a loyalty program would encourage repeat sales — making an offer of extra points potentially enticing as a means to lure back existing first-time customers.

Download the webinar replay for many more insights on mobile shopping, the role of social media, discount timing and in-store activities and more. And watch the MarketLive site for the follow-up holiday compendium produced in conjunction with the Consumer Shopping Survey.

3 top priorities for engaging a coveted demographic (no, not that one)

In their quest to achieve online sales growth, merchants are often counseled to target the young. Appealing to the 18-to-34 age bracket is considered the holy grail when it comes to proving brands are cutting-edge and poised for future success.

Bolstering this obsession are statistics showing that today’s youth do indeed consider the multi-touchpoint universe to be retail reality. While their lower incomes means that they rank lower in terms of total dollars contributed, members of Generation Z spend a higher percentage of their earnings via online commerce than other age groups — close to 9%, according to research from Business Insider.

But there’s another age cohort that deserves attention: seniors. As the large and affluent Baby Boomer population, which controls 70% of disposable income in the U.S.,  heads toward retirement, there’s mounting evidence that older consumers are not only increasingly tech-savvy, but willing to commit dollars online like never before.

Merchants need look no further than Amazon for proof of the importance of the senior demographic. The eCommerce giant launched a “50+ Active and Healthy Living” lifestyle microsite in April of this year, featuring a curated collection of wellness products, vitamins and supplements, fitness supplies and travel resources.

Amazon's site for seniors

While Amazon has the advantage of a vast selection of merchandise from which to create a tailored product array, even niche merchants can successfully cater to seniors by adopting a series of best practices that boost cross-touchpoint functionality and service. The bonus? These tactics can not only win sales from older shoppers, but can boost brand appeal for shoppers of all ages. The three top priorities:

Customer service ease-of-use. Seniors are actually less tolerant of inefficient customer service transactions than the young, Forrester found, with 52% of those aged 69 and up and 54% of Baby Boomers saying they’ll abandon a transaction if they can’t find a quick answer to their question — slightly more than Generation Z, 50% of whom report the same tendency. To satisfy the need for quick and comprehensive service, merchants should ensure that key information is close at hand regardless of the touchpoint. Tactics include:

  • Making customer service content searchable. On-site search should employ redirects to commonly-sought information, such as shipping rates and timeframes, and links to service should be displayed for frequently-used keywords.
  • Since seniors are still apt to use the phone and shop in-store as well as browse and buy online and via mobile devices, merchants should ensure policies are communicated consistently across the board — and consider investing in customer service solutions that give reps visibility into shopping behavior across touchpoints (in-store purchases as well as online activity, for example).
  • Simplifying live chat. We recently discussed how live chat should now be a fixture, and merchants should both subject their offerings to rigorous testing and track results to ensure the process is as smooth as possible. In particular, they should strike a balance between collecting information up-front as part of the chat initiation process and speeding the time to connection with a live person; long forms with many required fields are likely to be a turnoff.

Cross-touchpoint functionality. Customer service isn’t the only area where merchants should strive for a seamless and consistent shopping experience. To cater to seniors — as well as an increasingly mobile general population — they should prioritize investments in features that ease the shopping journey from touchpoint to touchpoint. Among them:

  • Print and email buttons, in the cart and elsewhere. Merchants should make product information portable all along the path to purchase, including for offline use in-stores.
  • “Save Cart” as a perk of registration. As we’ve discussed previously, while forced account creation remains a bad idea, merchants should highlight the ability to save products in order to facilitate mobile-to-web, mobile-to-store and web-to-mobile transactions.
  • Alternative payments. We’ve long been an advocate of alternative payments, which can smooth the path to purchase both for desktop and laptop users as well as for mobile shoppers. Additionally, the availability of alternative payments can reassure seniors new to the online shopping process, who may be more hesitant than other cohorts to enter credit card information online.

MarketLive merchant Full of Life puts it all together with a bevy of shopping cart options. The ability to save cart contents is highlighted, and Paypal is offered as an alternative payment option. Finallly, the merchant places a helpful graphic within the cart content to show shoppers how to connect their purchase to the customer ID printed on their print catalogs.

Example from Full of Life


Mobile fluency. With seniors freely using mobile devices to shop, merchants should invest in creating a user-friendly experience that both engages and builds trust. Among the tactics to consider:

  • Mobile-minded design. Merchants should review their design standards and ensure that navigation, buttons and images are all tap- and swipe-friendly. Whether employing responsive design or maintaining dedicated mobile and tablet sites, merchants should strive for clarity and readability on mobile devices, ensuring images are sized appropriately to prevent muddiness and text contrasts sufficiently with the background.
  • Apps for focused engagement. While in general we recommend prioritizing mobile Web site development, specialty merchants who can identify a unique offering for their target audience should consider building an app as a way of fostering deeper brand connections. Replenishment reminders, results trackers and wellness tips are potential tools in the health category that might appeal to seniors.

MarketLive merchant Rogaine offers a simple mobile site with icons as well as text in the navigation and a bold, easy-to-read color scheme. The brand offers a results-tracking app for iPhone users that employs similarly user-friendly graphics, such as a meter for measuring progress. Connections to the customer community and access to FAQs make the app a worthwhile download for the audience.

Rogaine mobile site

Rogaine app
















Does your eCommerce offering cater specifically to seniors, and if so, how?


Priorities for adapting live chat to a multi-touchpoint world

We’ve long argued that customer service can be an important brand differentiator for small- to mid-sized merchants in their quest to win sales and loyalty. Stellar service drives valuable repeat business, while poor interactions can cause site abandonment. And word-of-mouth reputation can hinge on customer interactions with support staff; tales of neglect can go viral, while brand recommendations among friends can spur purchases from new customers.

Merchants seeking further proof of the importance of customer service need look no further than Amazon, which nearly a year ago launched a service called Mayday for owners of its Kindle Fire tablets. With a touch of a button, customers can speak directly with a representative, whose video image is displayed on tablet screens — literally putting a face on a vast organization that had previously offered little in the way of opportunities for one-on-one support interaction. It’s now the most popular means of accessing Kindle Fire support, with 75% of customer requests coming through Mayday, according to Amazon.

Amazon Mayday

While merchants can’t be expected to keep up with Amazon’s every innovation, they shouldn’t ignore the increasingly  widespread adoption of live chat in general. Usage rates are on the rise, jumping from 30% of online consumers in 2009 to 43% as of 2012 — a 43% increase, according to technology researcher Forrester.  And usage isn’t limited to younger consumers; Forrester found that all demographics use live chat, including a third of those aged 57 or above.

As usage levels head toward the 50% threshold, live chat is a must-have for merchants. And they should do more than placing a “live chat” link in the global header or footer; to maximize the revenue opportunity live chat presents, they should adopt new chat features that resonate with their target audience. Among the latest considerations:

Context is more important than ever. We’ve already addressed the importance of context when it comes to prompting shoppers to engage in live chat on the eCommerce site. But the concept of context extends far beyond that, requiring merchants to align chat invitations with shoppers’ individual situations so that chat is a relevant proposition at the very moment a question arises. Among the techniques for presenting chat as a relevant solution:

  • Tailor chat invitation language to match the journey along the path to purchase. Generic live chat promotions should be replaced by category-specific invitations as shoppers narrow their focus. Those using on-site search might be prompted to connect with live chat if they still don’t see what they’re looking for, while viewers of a specific product might see a chat promotion touting the customer service team’s expertise when it comes to fit or style.

MarketLive merchant Title Nine gives live chat increasing prominence as shoppers move along the path to purchase. A text link with small graphic in the global header is supplemented by a “Need Help?” prompt in the center content area of the product page. Shoppers who add items to cart view a prominent chat promotion promising to connect them with a “customer service maven” and listing the hours of live chat availability.

Title Nine chat promotion

Title Nine chat promotion

  • Present geo-aware chat options. Using built-in browser information combined with location data collected with shoppers’ permission, merchants can present not only chat customer service hours in the local time zone, but connect consumers with local store outlet customer service options as well.
  • Use language attuned to the touchpoint. With social media serving as a de facto customer service channel, it’s crucial to promote live chat services via social outposts, highlighting the benefits of connecting with expert staff for in-depth advice.

Women’s retailer Chico’s promotes live chat on Facebook with the offer to connect 24/7 with “style experts,” promising brand followers authoritative advice they can trust.

Chico's live chat promo in Facebook

Mobile live chat matters. As shopping activity on mobile devices continues to grow, so does the need for providing stellar support for mobile shoppers — and that includes offering live chat services. Fully 41% of U.S. mobile shoppers report using mobile live chat for shopping support — ahead of text messaging and mobile social media, the E-Tailing Group found in a recent study. And mobile live chat is poised to play an important role in cross-channel sales, with one in five shoppers saying they accessed mobile shopping support while in physical stores.

Attempting to provide an effective live chat experience on mobile devices is a steep challenge requiring particular attention to context. The E-Tailing Group found that two factors in particular determined the success of chat interactions:

  • The position of the chat window, accessible but without covering key content — and the ability to move it to the optimal location of the shopper’s choosing. More than 75% of consumers said this functionality was important, with close to half specifying it was even more crucial on mobile devices.
  • Speed and brevity. Eighty-five percent of consumers expect the customer service agent to respond quickly to the chat initiation queue — and 53% of shoppers said this response time was especially important on mobile phones. Once engaged with an agent, 75% of consumers said brevity of responses was important, and 52% deemed this characteristic especially important for mobile.

Mobile live chat stats from E-Tailing Group

Video is experimental, but potentially impactful. While just 14% of U.S. consumers use live video chat weekly, according to Forrester, the Amazon Mayday example proves that easy-to-use video support can take off. To maximize its potential impact, merchants should deploy video chat only in circumstances where visuals can enhance the customer support experience — whether by having reps use the camera to show shoppers product details the Web site doesn’t campture, or by having shoppers share relevant visuals with agents — a room for which they’d like to buy furniture, for example.

Merchants who’d like to dip their toes into the video chat pool without taking the plunge can consider Google+ Hangouts on the Air, which give brand experts a platform for connecting with consumers and answering questions either one-on-one or in a group presentation. U.K. retailer ASOS has produced a number of what it calls “shop-along hangouts” featuring style experts, who showcase the latest trends as well as take questions from participants. Shopping links on the ASOS site were displayed as they discussed their favorite items.

ASOS shop-along hangout

How are you using live chat to maximize sales and boost loyalty?

Mobile landing pages take center stage in Google Shopping update

In just over six weeks, a new set of specifications will take effect for Google Product Listing Ads, the paid-search format that’s surged in popularity since its debut in 2012. While the update includes a laundry list of attribute changes that include new descriptors for apparel products and a streamlined process for defining in-stock items, one key highlight stands out: the emphasis on the landing page, and specifically the importance of optimizing landing pages for mobile searchers.

For starts, beginning Sept. 30, merchants will be able to specify distinct landing pages for searchers on mobile devices — thereby helping merchants with mobile-optimized sites direct mobile users to the appropriate environment. But even those who don’t take advantage of the mobile URL option will need to step up efforts to create mobile-friendly landing pages; as part of the update, Google is issuing a new landing page content policy that stipulates more specifically than ever how merchants must “render an actual web page properly.”

Among the requirements, merchants can’t obscure key content related to the ad offer with a pop-up window, the ad offer must be centrally prominent on the landing page, and the call to action must be visible —  a potentially challenging balance on small mobile screens. Furthermore, the policy specifies that merchants must avoid requiring shoppers to run a separate application for the page to work properly, and specifically calls out video applications on mobile devices as an example.

With these moves, Google is honing its PLA service to serve mobile shoppers first and foremost. Given that mobile browsing is ever more prevalent, even as mobile revenues lag, merchants would do well to follow Google’s lead and strive to improve the paid search experience for mobile shoppers.

First and foremost, of course, that means having mobile-optimized content for shoppers to access. As we noted in our previous post on PLAs, investing specifically in mobile-targeted PLA ads is a risky bet for those without a substantial mobile presence and a frictionless mobile path to purchase.

As the new guidelines suggest however, even those merchants not zeroing in on mobile users in their paid search ad specifications are still likely to attract mobile viewers via their PLAs — and they should do their utmost to be ready. Among the changes to consider:

Throttle mobile visuals just right. In a recent post, we advocated amping up visuals for mobile eCommerce sites. When it comes to PLAs, the trick is to feature the right media at the right time on mobile landing pages. Specifically, merchants should adhere to the long-standing best practice of providing visual confirmation of landing page relevance to the ad by “echoing” the ad image in a prominent position on the landing page — including any SKU options tailored to the ad search term. Then, for shoppers whose interest is piqued, merchants should offer an array of secondary options for exploring further, including alternate image views and video demonstrations.

MarketLive merchant Design Within Reach provides a precise visual echo of the mobile PLA for its grasshopper lamp, with the product page image an exact replica of the ad image, right down to the color.

PLA example from DWR         dwr_plamobile1

Incorporate special offers at the mobile product page level. To enable using product pages as effective landing pages that adhere to Google’s content standards, merchants should optimize premium mobile screen real estate to include room for product- or brand-specific offers, or even site-wide discounts that might otherwise be placed in a missable spot within the global header.

MarketLive merchant Beauty Brands highlights its site-wide free shipping offer just beneath the “add to cart” button on the product page — giving the promotion high visibility. Detailed product information and “pro tips” are displayed below the promotion for those who want to delve deeper.

Mobile example from beauty brands













How are you optimizing PLAs for mobile success?

Performance Index: Mobile challenges and opportunities for the holidays

If the latest MarketLive Performance Index is any indication, the upcoming holiday season could be a fruitful one for merchants. Index data reveals that year over year revenue for the second quarter was up by more than 19%, building on traffic gains of 11.1%. The conversion rate increased nearly 5% as merchants optimize their offerings to convince browsers to become buyers — and even better, the average order size grew by more than 5%, indicating that tactics other than bargain-basement discounting are driving the improved performance.

And just as in Q1, the impact of mobile device usage for shopping is significant. Smartphone traffic now accounts for one in four visits to merchant sites, with traffic soaring 334% year over year, while tablets now drive 15% of visits. But also as in Q1, merchants are by and large failing to capitalize on the mobile opportunity. While conversion rates for both smartphones and tablets increased from Q1 to Q2, cart and abandonment rates remained shockingly high — suggesting that merchants have a long ways to go before realizing their mobile potential.

Data from the MarketLive Performance Index

While mobile cart and checkout optimization should be a top priority, the holiday season’s rapid approach means that many merchants are out of time for major integrations and technical overhauls. But there are more straightforward changes merchants can still undertake to drive improved holiday mobile results. Among them:

Amp up mobile cart messaging about shipping options and costs. To cater to consumers’ continuing obsession with shipping costs and promotions, our recent survey of 100 top mobile merchant sites found that 77% of mobile-optimized sites display the shipping price in the mobile shopping cart. Fewer merchants, however, back up this key piece of information with two other data points that help shoppers make purchase decisions:

  • Close to 8 in 10 mobile sites fail to include a description of shipping methods and their timeframes for each tier of delivery service, whether on the cart page or even through a link — which means that there are plenty of carts displaying shipping costs without letting shoppers know what, exactly, the charge buys them. Shoppers value this information, with more than one in five saying they’ve abandoned sites when no estimated delivery date was provided early in the purchase process, according to comScore.
  • Just a third of mobile sites feature a free shipping promotion in the mobile shopping cart — whether by displaying a free shipping threshold, a free shipping promo code, or by dynamically calculating the amount shoppers should add to meet the threshold.

Merchants should ensure this information is prominent in the mobile cart. MarketLive merchant Sport Chalet calls out a free shipping promotion at the top of the cart, with the cost deducted further downpage for good measure.

Mobile example from Sport Chalet

Bulk up visual mobile offerings. Consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices not just for text messaging and store locator lookup, but to browse rich visual environments. For example, the image-driven social pinboard site Pinterest reported in late 2013 that three-quarters of all usage was generated from mobile devices — a 50% year-over-year increase. Fully 15% of all video traffic globally is generated on mobile devices, while on YouTube specifically, 40% of traffic comes from mobile, according to Business Insider.

And yet most merchants fail to cater to this hunger for mobile visuals, often offering mobile shoppers a single product image, with no video content to speak of. Merchants should rectify the situation by adding existing supplemental images and product videos from the desktop/laptop site to the mobile environment.

MarketLive merchant World Market uses a slideshow format to present multiple images on the product page. THe photos give shoppers the opportunity to swipe through the series to see different product details, such as this close-up showing the texture of a hammered metal lamp base.

Mobile example from World Market

Download the full Index report for further performance stats, including sector snapshots and further statistics about mobile. What final touches are you adding to your mobile offerings for the holidays?