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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

Mobile will drive holiday sales; be sure you’re along for the ride

More people will be doing their holiday shopping

More people will be doing their holiday shopping via mobile devices this year, say industry experts. Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto / WDnet

Last holiday season, more than half of all traffic to retail sites was from mobile phones.

This year, the percentage is predicted to climb from 52 percent to 61 percent, according to Salesforce Commerce Cloud, a digital commerce provider.

With the majority of traffic coming from mobile, small businesses need to find ways to optimize their sites to avoid losing that traffic to competitors this holiday season, experts say.

“It’s not OK to just be OK in mobile anymore,” says Rick Kenney, head of consumer insights at San Francisco-based Salesforce. “Your mobile experience needs to be best in class or shoppers will abandon your site and go find your competitors.”

Make it really easy to buy and “reduce friction,” he says.

Checkout on a mobile device can be painful, with all the layers shoppers often have to navigate through, he says.

Always give shoppers the option to check out as a guest, and consider speeding up the payment process by incorporating some alternate payment options beyond credit cards, such as Apple Pay or PayPal, Kenney says.

With Apple Pay, for instance, once a customer selects size and color on the product detail page, a button pops up for Apple Pay eliminating the need for the customer to go to her virtual cart or checkout on a separate page, he says.

Beyond simplifying the checkout process, retailers also should optimize the images on their mobile site.

“Imagery is huge,” says Chris Searles, a partner at Searles Graphics Inc., a Yaphank marketing firm that offers mobile-optimized web design services.

Don’t skimp on your product photography, he says.

He prefers to minimize the amount of text, using only what’s absolutely necessary to convey what hasn’t been conveyed through images.

“You’re working with a really small amount of screen real estate,” he says. “It’s important to optimize every square inch of the real estate you have to work with.”

Be mindful of your navigation buttons as well, he says.

Make them big enough for users to easily tap, and place them far enough away from another “tap target” so users don’t inadvertently tap the wrong button, Searles says.

Buttons and navigation elements should be at least 44 pixels by 44 pixels for ease of interaction, according to Salesforce Commerce Cloud in its holiday readiness guide.

If you’re using holiday graphics, don’t make it so busy that it’s a distraction from the actual product that you’re selling, says Scott Darrohn, co-founder of fishbat, a Patchogue-based digital marketing firm.

Functionality and loading speed are very important as well, he says.

The optimum load time for a mobile site is about four seconds, according to Salesforce.

“Competition is severe so you have to make sure all the elements are working harmoniously,” Darrohn says.

Some companies are using “chatbots” or virtual agents to make the shopping experience easier, he says. They answer questions quicker than a live person by identifying keywords and responding accordingly, he says.

Whatever you do, recognize that mobile is here to stay.

“We’re still at a point where mobile is growing,” says Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at the NPD Group in Port Washington. “We haven’t seen its saturation point.”

He says mobile will be the primary driver of sales this holiday season.

This year retailers “will be hard-pressed to get growth of any size,” says Cohen, noting in part there’s very few “exciting new interesting” items out there. “Where growth will come from is the mobile side of the equation.”

FAST FACT

35%

Percentage of online purchases this holiday season that will be made through mobile phones

SOURCE: NetElixir forecast

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