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It's Officially Time to Freak Out if Your Mobile Shopping Site Sucks

According to one report, 37 percent of all online Thanksgiving orders were made on smartphones, up 131 percent from last year.

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Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Shopping on phones is here to stay. That’s bad news for online retailers whose mobile sites and apps still suck, these holidays are proving.

Visits from mobile phones comprised 52 percent of total traffic on shopping sites and apps on Thanksgiving, according to ChannelAdvisor, an e-commerce software company that helps merchants sell on big marketplaces like Amazon and eBay. The company said that 37 percent of all online Thanksgiving orders were made on smartphones, up 131 percent from last year’s 16 percent figure.

Why is there still a gap between visits and orders? People are still finding it too tough to complete a purchase on the small screens of phones, with many dropping out during the checkout process. The conversion rate on phones was 2.16 percent this Thanksgiving, according to ChannelAdvisor, down slightly from 2.27 percent last year, and well less than half of the 5.33 percent rate on desktop computers.

“[A]s an industry we need to solve this mobile problem as it’s clearly not getting better even though retailers have invested substantially in this area over the last year,” Scot Wingo, ChannelAdvisor’s executive chairman, said in an e-mail.

Mobile’s growth combined with continued conversion troubles does benefit some. Amazon, for example, with its one-click checkout, now has a huge advantage on smartphones. So do apps that have integrated express payment options such as Apple Pay and PayPal One Touch, which remove the need to type out credit card and shipping information. Other online marketplaces such as Spring and Wish, which are designed specifically for mobile shopping, should be positioned better than some legacy retailers when it comes to conversion rates.

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