The “tipping point of mobile search“ was reached in the USA in the fourth quarter of 2014. For the first time, Google registered more queries from mobile than desktop devices.
Since then, there has been a steady stream of indicators highlighting the importance of mobile Internet for online marketing and e-commerce. The empirical results are evident and point in one direction: the Internet is mobile! And this shift in device types is also why site managers should start working with technology that speeds up mobile pages and improves user experience. AMP, Accelerated Mobile Pages, are the hot-topic item; they significantly reduce loading times. They do, however, come with some limitations. So this article will focus on the current state of development of mobile commerce and the question as to whether or not AMP pages are the right tools to improve mobile shopping.
As is so often the case in the development of digitization and the Internet, user experience creates the pressure for businesses to embrace change. The change is clear if you look at the percent of total Internet use that takes place over mobile devices.
Mobile Internet use grew from 20% in 2011 to 68% today. The length of use on mobile devices has also increased. Among especially active millennials, the worldwide use of mobile devices rose to 3.14 hours in 206, while in 2012 it was only 1.78 hours. The proportion of shopping compared to total activity on smartphones has also increased. The number of users who shop online has likewise clearly grown from 9.8 million in 2015 to 14.65 million in 2016. There can be no doubt that mobile devices are the dominant and decisive hardware platform for Internet use and online shopping.
For website and shop managers, the urgent question now is: What effect will the "mobile revolution" have on earnings ratios and branding model? A closer look shows relatively quickly and clearly that mobile use is not necessarily a plus. Rather, it reveals that many performance parameters are much worse on the mobile sites than their desktop versions. And here one figure jumps to the forefront that, until now, hasn't played such a large role in the rather wide spectrum of performance and ranking factors: the loading time of the page.
The result is clear: the more often the page is visited from mobile devices, the more significant the problem of slower loading times. This is a conversion and thus a profit killer. The cause is clear: the user's mobile limited bandwidth often make the loading of digital content on smartphones a tedious process. In addition to long loading times, bad usability is also a reason why mobile bounce rates are higher, and time-on-site rates are lower than with desktop access. But high discontinuation especially leads to lower conversion rates and, thereby, to lower conversions. From the viewpoint of direct marketing costs, this is a very significant problem, because lower conversion rates significantly increase the online marketing costs per conversion.
In mobile searches, user experience is of central importance for Google. Because the number of search queries on mobile devices decreases along with conversions, Google also faces decreasing click prices in Adwords. To stop this trend, Google has unveiled diverse activities as part of its "Mobile First" strategy. The "Mobile First" strategy, announced by Google in 2014, led to the index being converted to a mobile-first index (an index shaped by mobile websites) in 2017. In the announcement, they had this to say about the mobile indexing of websites:
A date for the launch of the mobile index is still not set yet. But Google's mobile strategy also includes improving the technical aspects of the user experience in mobile searches. An important building block in this is the advancement of technology to help reduce the problem of longer loading times on mobile devices. This technology is Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP.
AMP was primarily developed for ad-financed content pages. It is especially here that the AMP initiative finds the greatest adjustment requirements. On pages with complex loading process involving ads or poorly formatted, non-compressed graphics, the data volume can be reduced with the help of AMP by simply eliminating large elements, at least in part. This will keep the user from abandoning your website or using AdBlocker more and more. AMP can be technically implemented in a content management cystem such as WordPress by installing the corresponding plugin.
And AMP works. As I determined on an advice page I run, the loading speed of all pages through AMP could be reduced by 33% of the average loading time. This acceleration comes with a price, however: The sidebar, with its important elements, banners, and logo, is only shown in a reduced form. But can the AMP turbo also fire up e-commerce pages?
Shop sites with high rates of interaction, such as the shopping cart page and all of the checkout pages, are not ideally suited to this. Standard AMP solutions such as a plugin are not really possible at this time for pages that require the user to enter information and interact by checking click boxes, for example. However, the AMP initiative has already published some first case studies of e-commerce sites that have used personally developed AMP solutions and that have shown very clear improvements in conversion and bounce rates.
But what can you do if your online shop runs on a standard system and there aren't any resources available to develop a personalized AMP? In any case, you should gain AMP experience with the content, product, and category pages of your website. Especially attractive landing pages - whether they are product, category, or magazine pages - deserve to load quickly. They are the first entry to your mobile online shop, the first hurdle that has to be overcome by smartphones and tablets.
But of course, you can't neglect the usability of the shopping carts and checkout on your shop sites. Thankfully, there are already a lot of best practice studies that can help us build not only fast AMP pages, but also fast shopping carts and checkouts with good usability.
One such study appeared under the title, "The Anatomy of The Perfect Mobile E-Commerce Checkout Page," by Kunle Campbell. Campbell offers a lot of helpful recommendations for the perfect mobile checkout. These are, among others:
Overall, a mobile shop should be optimized from top to bottom, just like all of your business' other conversion funnels. When mobile checkout works well, the funnel is initiated with especially fast and "lean" AMP pages.
Published on 06/13/2017 by Dominik Große Holtforth.
Prof. Dr. Dominik Große Holtforth teaches business studies and media management at Fresenius University of Applied Sciences in Cologne. He is also head of the e-Commerce department which deals with strategy-related questions, the controlling of key performance indicators as well as competition strategies in online marketing and e-Commerce. Prof. Große Holtforth is co-founder of the e-Commerce agency Warenkorb.com and founder of the online plant shop “Meine Orangerie.” This is how he combines scientific expertise and practical experience.