Commentary

The Shopping Cart Conundrum

Mobile customers appear to be increasingly favoring browser-based shopping over apps. Research on this topic has been building to that conclusion for several years, yet most large Internet retailers are not refocusing their marketing strategies to reflect this change.

Gomez Research in 2010 pointed to the likely reason for shoppers’ mobile Web preference: "When you’re doing business on the Web, every second counts."

Their study demonstrated that 58% of people expect a mobile Web site to perform like a desktop Web site -- if a page load takes more than 2 seconds, 40% of shoppers are likely to abandon that site; and finally “the average impact of a 1-second delay meant a 7% reduction in conversions. For the $100,000/day ecommerce site, a one-second delay means $2.5 million in lost revenues in a year.

The unique problem for mobile Web shopping is that the steps to purchasing simply take too long -- far longer than on the familiar Web. And that’s because of how mobile devices work. Just clicking a button to “add,” “delete,” or “change quantity” on the mobile Web requires sending transaction data from the shopper’s mobile device to the vendor’s server (average 3-5 seconds) via cell towers, not high-speed cables.

These interim steps, long before checking out, are the challenge -- it's all about time.

As Rimma Kats concluded in April, 2011: ”Mobile users expect to make sacrifices -- in content depth and its presentation -- in exchange for anyplace, anytime convenience, but the one thing they will not sacrifice is speed.

So apart from finding a way to increase the speed of light, the best technical solution for this problem is eliminating the number of times a mobile customer has to wait for a server call when buying something. 

While apps looked like a great solution at first, it turns out that they aren’t -- at least not for mobile commerce. The reason is simply that as more people have begun to use smartphones, and more vendors have put up mobile Web sites, the practical, economic, and physical limitations have emerged -- and they are significant.

A brief look at history demonstrates how speed drove innovation on the Web to such an extent that patents for speed-enhancing software (like Amazon's “1-Click” payment method) were prosecuted to the tune of multiple millions of dollars, even to be lost. A recent Wall Street Journal article declared that sales at Amazon increase by 1% for every 100 milliseconds they shave off download times!

The challenge for mobile commerce is to build speedy solutions.

If history supports predictions, the principle of Occam's Razor will prevail: the simplest solution will win. That points to the mobile Web -- not to an infinite number of apps.

Now imagine that you could use an online cart technology that reduces the time it takes to “add,” “delete,” or “change quantity” by virtually 100% because it eliminates the need for a server call for each of those commands.

This "instant-add" cart solution allows “buy” buttons to be placed virtually anywhere that a product is displayed, with no added overhead built in -- allowing for the quickest possible sale to be completed with one click and then checking out.

This technology requires only familiar html and javascript, and is an incremental change that can be inserted into virtually any new or existing cart. What it means is that a customer arriving at your site on the mobile Web can see a product and click “add to cart” with no forced page change, reload or waiting time. That single click produces an immediate confirmation -- with no server call -- that the item is “in cart.” 

This solution forms an ideal bridge between desktop and mobile Web, as it works identically on both via the browser.

This technology already exists -- and you may want to ask your favorite retailer why they have not implemented it on their mobile site.

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