By Philip Rooke, CEO of Spreadshirt

Tablets and smartphones are increasingly becoming our favourite shopping tools and this trend is set to continue. They allow us to compare prices, get discounts and browse and infinite range of products. Like many retailers, however, we were lagging behind when it came to this medium so we set out to make 2014 the year of mobile experience at Spreadshirt and we saw our sales via mobile devices double. How did we achieve this? By identifying that in order to convert browsers into buyers, retailers really need to start focusing on three key areas: features, visuals and payments.

1. Features

Searching has got to be easy. That doesn’t just mean easy to do, but it should be easy to find what you’re looking for. We should keep in mind that mobile is more and more a shopping medium and not just a researching tool, after all, it is where a third of fashion purchases come from. Consumers therefore really appreciate a way to store things and come back to them.

For us, the Wish List feature has been helpful in converting our mobile browsers. They may only have small pockets of time, so they want to be able to save their ideas on their wish list and come back and buy them later.

2. Visuals

The web is becoming an increasingly visual experience. It is not surprising then that e-commerce has also becoming more visual too, with images often proving to be an entry point to the buying processes. Consumers want clear, inviting images, less clutter, which often means text, more symbols and a stronger focus on design.

For online retailers this is a User Experience (UX) issue too. Desktop consumers want enticing pictures, size and colour choices, other options, such as alternative products, as well as social functions. While mobile consumers want simplicity because of screen size and download times. This might leave retailers with very hard business and UX decisions on what to leave out of their mobile design.

3. Payments

All of the above is to no avail if the payment process is complex. We made our mobile payment space fully responsive in 2014. Now that all elements of the page can detect and adjust to the screen size of the device, the mobile payment process is easier and more intuitive.

Having a single page check-out is also essential in converting mobile visitors into sales. Clicking through varies pages to put in your address, choose a payment method and confirm the order works ok on a desktop, but is painful on a mobile and discourages visitors from buying. The Spreadshirt single page check-out now meets the highest technology standards in terms of usability and technology.

Thinking about our mobile approach first has forced us to think about what matters to customers. We have to make really hard feature and communication decisions and find often that less is more to get mobile right. This then raises the standard across all mediums, for example, our improved mobile checkout actually caused checkout conversion rates improvements on all our platforms.

We also need to consider that mobile devices are relatively new to customers and the technology is rapidly changing. The customer still has a lot to discover about how they like to shop on mobiles and retailers still have a lot to learn. Trends change quickly too, and what we think is good one year might be out of date next, so in mobile in particular, companies should look to be constantly upgrading.

For us, to meet the technical expectations of our year of the Mobile Experience, we adopted agile development processes, a state-of-the-art procedure to ensure a very fast route to implementation and launch of the feature/service and to ensure its ongoing optimisation.

Mobile is moving away from being just a research tool into a significant buying channel, presenting huge opportunities for us and other online retailers to increase sales. Mobile sales are expected to rise to nearly 50% of all transactions in the coming years, as customers continue to use mobile devices and companies optimise sites for mobile conversion with better visuals, features and payment options. However, there still is quite a substantial absence of information about mobile commerce, leading many online retailers to continue under-estimating the opportunity this new channels presents. This might also be because it’s hard to assign value to mobile, the way we used to be able to with desktop, as it plays a more diverse and intricate role in a customer’s path to purchase.

Mobile commerce will continue to grow with customers increasingly demanding a joined-up experience between channels. They are going to gradually move away from being content at being able to use a mobile to shop, to wanting to have the same experience across their devices. While this may not require retailers to have the same dynamic features across all the different shopping channels, it does certainly mean that there will need to be a consistency in design, communication and functions.