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Don’t Forget the Desktop When Selling Online

I recently got into a bit of an argument with a creative web designer. He was busy telling a group of businesses that they might as well forget about desktop design altogether and put all their energies into designing just for mobile devices. I tried to suggest that, even today, mobile phones only account for a relatively small portion of online sales. My problem was that he was cool and I wasn’t. He had a full head of hair, a beard and a technicolour shirt. How could I possibly compete?

In this post I’ll review the latest literature and put together as clear a story as possible about the importance of desktop conversion for selling online.

Abandonment Rates

Barilliance is an international ecommerce personalisation business that recently pooled cart abandonment data from over 500 large ecommerce businesses. Their results for different device types are shown below.

mobile cart abandonment

In the same study, Barilliance also looked at the average basket sizes on different devices. Pooling data over their 500 businesses they found an average desktop basket size of $142 USD. This compared to an average mobile basket size of $111 USD.

Almost without exception, articles that provide cart abandonment data argue that the problem of high abandonment on mobile is because of poor web design or slow connection speeds.

Device Conversions

A more detailed study was undertaken by ComStore who undertook a segmentation and analysis for some of the reasons why so few web store visits resulted in sales compared to devices with larger screens.

length of time on ecommerce vs spent

The relatively low sales conversion rate using mobile devices was commented on last month by Peter Sheldon, Senior Director of Commerce Strategy at Magento. He stated “While smartphones continue to gain share as a primary channel for consumers to shop online, the ratio of mobile views to conversions lags in comparison to desktop.”. To try to improve conversion rates, Magento has now launched its Mobile Optimization Initiative where they plan to improve the mobile user experience through improved web design, faster load times and improved checkout usability.

Social Media and Ecommerce Conversion

Another differentiating factor between mobile devices and desktops is in how they are used. Mobile devices are now very much more likely to be used for social interaction than desktops. However, social media remains the least likely source for ecommerce sales conversion:

referrers by conversion rate

The data shown here provides compelling evidence that while mobile certainly dominates in terms of screen time. However, this picture changes when they come to buy products online.

An important characteristic of those involved in ecommerce is that the good ones are all complete pragmatists. If you ask them for an opinion they will show you the data. They work with facts and data, they perform experiments, they look at the numbers. When you do this, it’s clear that desktop and tablet devices dominate during ecommerce conversion.

Nobody doubts the importance of mobile and how it increasingly dominates our browsing habits. Though true, this should not deflect professional ecommerce web designers from their current approach of designing first for desktop. It may not be trendy but, pragmatically speaking, it’s where the money is.