Conversion Optimization

Science-backed Mobile Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Ideas

The mobile conversion problem is still around. Here are some psychology-backed mobile optimization ideas that we’re keen to share with you. 

Science-backed Mobile Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Ideas

It’s not freshly minted news anymore that most eCommerce shoppers around the world reach out for their mobile phones to search and browse. However, when it comes to actually purchasing (in other words, adding products to cart), their go-to device is the desktop.

And even though the Covid-19 pandemic has spiked mobile use for shopping (for example, it’s predicted that by 2025, 44.2% of retail eCommerce sales will be contributed by mCommerce), the overall mobile user experience is still struggling to match up. 

That’s why we thought this is when the world needs to dive deeper into solving the mobile conversion problem. Our research left us with some psychology-backed mobile optimization ideas that we’re keen to share with you. 

Science-backed Mobile Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Ideas

1. Use flexible grids (the Liking principle)

In psychology, the principle of liking denotes the phenomenon where people are persuaded more by people and things that they come to like. 

Now, when it comes to flexible grids and liking, what’s the connection you ask? 

We’ll tell you. 

One of the biggest challenges in mobile optimization is limited real estate on-screen.

So, your eCommerce site essentially has only so much space to make a visual impact that’s also contextual and relevant.

And if screen real estate is underused or overused, it creates a browsing experience that can quickly turn into dislike. 

The solution? Instead of fixed grids, make use of responsive grids.

This is because responsive grids are more suited to maximize the limited screen area on a mobile device while maintaining a uniform viewing experience. Unlike fixed grids, which come with fixed values, responsive grids come with percentage values.

This makes them relative to any mobile device your site is being optimized for. 

To understand what exactly can help make flexible grids do their job better, here’s a quick best practice checklist:

- Use a four-column grid for optimizing your mobile experience. Unlike a desktop that does well with 12 columns and a tablet that’s best optimized with 8, 4 is the magic number for mobile. 

- Make use of an auto-layout tool. This can help you mimic a flex container where blocks of content can be dragged and dropped and moved around to give you the big picture. 

- Be consistent with horizontal and vertical spacing. This aspect, when missed out, prevents a seamless visual experience for the mobile user.

In the figure below, while the diagram on the right suggests a consistency of horizontal and vertical spacing, the one on the left is off. 

mobile optimization ux design spacing

Actionable tip

Move from mobile devices with smaller screens to larger ones to test how well your responsive grids adapt. 

Example

Starbucks 

The following example shows how Starbucks optimizes its mobile experience differently from its desktop version, adapting different depth and height elements. 

starbucks homepage mobile view
starbucks homepage desktop view
starbucks homepage mobile view
starbucks homepage desktop view

Quick Takeaway

Starbucks takes the mobile user’s natural eye scanning pattern and showcases the mobile site’s most important aspects within limited screen space. 

2. Highlight the need to act (the Urgency principle)

The eCommerce universe is inherently action-driven.

While different businesses depend on different conversion funnels, they all have one thing in common - to make the user convert into a paying customer at the end. 

(And since paying customers are often converted because of excellent mobile product page breadcrumbs, here are a few common breadcrumb mistakes you might want to pay attention to.)

On a typical mobile commerce experience, the call-to-action buttons decide how fast and how efficiently the user acts.

If mobile CRO is at the top of your mind right now, then you probably already know that users behave differently when something feels urgent as against when something doesn’t.

In psychology, the principle of urgency is what in today’s day and age we call FOMO - Fear of Missing Out. 

The CTA button is often missed out in the urgency conversation but we thought a quick checklist of lesser-known best practices may be helpful:

- Employ larger buttons that don’t miss user taps. According to Apple, CTAs for mobile need to be 44 x 44 pixels, while Microsoft states 34 x 26 pixels as ideal. 

- Design buttons with slightly rounded corners as against sharper edges. This slight softening ensures the user’s eyes take in the text that’s inside the buttons.

When you make the CTA buttons larger, the need for spacing between them reduces and the inaccuracy around tapping them can also be negotiated better. A 2007 touchscreen user interface study revealed some standards around designing text buttons. 

mobile ux text buttons example

Actionable tip

Consider color, contrast and layering while planning your CTA text buttons.

This is especially important on pages that have multiple CTAs of varied priority and importance

Example

Birchbox

birchbox mobile cta design example

Quick Takeaway

Clean frames, plenty of white space and clear indicators of changing choices - they all contribute to a critical task being contributed, along with a simple but superbly designed CTA button. 

3. Leverage client testimonials (the Social Proof principle)

By now, it’s amply clear that video is here to stay and rule. In 2019, 500 hours of video content was uploaded every minute.

Simultaneously, 96% consumers also admit that the pandemic has caused a steep increase in their online video consumption. 

For mobile users, video serves as a quick, timely and efficient replacement to textual information.

And because videos require just a one-tap action from users, they are preferred for their anytime, anywhere ease. 

In the same breath, users and shoppers have become more discretionary about purchases - unless they are certain a product is what they want, they will consider and compare before buying.

Reviews mimic the word-of-mouth phenomenon and like eCommerce, mCommerce can also leverage the psychological principle of social proof. 

Combine video and the necessity for knowing how other people are experiencing a product, and it’s not tough to guess the next step - featuring user generated videos to display review and testimonial content. Here’s a quick checklist of best practices:

- Make the video length snackable. This is the only way you’ll get the attention of your mobile audiences. 

- Generate the right content through UGC focused campaigns. This will give you the control over what kind of content users generate (since you’ll be dictating the guidelines). 

Actionable tip

For longer video reviews, create edited versions and then offer the choice of viewing the full versions either through Youtube or your social handles.

Example

Estee Lauder

Estee Lauder features a “Live Stream” section on their mobile site, displaying how well-known influencers (who are also loyal users) experience their products and document the same. 

estee lauder influencer marketing example

Quick Takeaway

Creating user generated and influencer generated content that informs and builds awareness while promoting certain products, can be a viable idea. 

4. Make saving orders easy (the Choice Paradox principle)

Most shoppers use their smartphones to check out websites by various brands, but ultimately buy through their desktop.

This was clarified by the 2018-2019 Episerver B2C Dot Com Report, which found 50% of all online sessions coming from smartphones while only 41% was from desktops.

Then there’s statistics that reveal how the shopping cart is often treated like a “holding area”.

We think this is a golden opportunity for mCommerce to seize.

Because the ultimate idea is to offer a separate holding zone that users can make use of while shopping. 

Enter the “save for later” option.

It can especially be effective for mobile because people are essentially trying to browse, buy (maybe) and get out (most definitely) in a short time. This optimization technique ties in straight with the choice paradox principle. It basically states how human beings are actually flabbergasted by too much choice instead of being able to take a pick. 

A “save for later” option ensures they are able to retain their freedom to go over products they may not buy immediately, but also not be confused about the plenty of choices. The following are a few best practices to consider in this context:

- Stop redirects to the page that features “save for later” items. Remember the user is in their checkout flow, and what they need is just a clear indication that the item has been saved for later viewing and purchasing. 

- Provide clear feedback if the user moves an item from their cart to “save for later”. 

Actionable tip

Make the “save for later” section easily discoverable and accessible. Ensure there are no overlaps between the current cart and the potential future purchases. 

(Wondering what other steps you can take to make your mobile cart page more effective? Here are some brilliant examples for inspiration.)

Example

Amazon

amazon save for later example

Quick Takeaway

Featuring the “save for later” section close to quantity adjustments and add to cart highlights its presence - letting users know they have the freedom to use this option. 

5. Prioritize discoverability over aesthetics (the Simplicity principle)

Beauty has its own place when it comes to putting up the face of your brand.

However, if that becomes your priority when you’re optimizing for mobile conversions, then it could be a problem.

Especially if it plays with the discoverability factor on your mobile site. 

Discoverability on a mobile site has become evidently more important since 2019, with Google moving to mobile-first indexing for good.

And great discoverability could mean a bunch of things when you’re optimizing for mobile:

- Text that’s easily skimmable. Even if you have the most gloriously descriptive copy, see if you can limit it only to a couple of sentences at a time. 

- A limited number of popups. The more contextual you are with popups, the more they are likely to grab a user’s attention (while causing them less annoyance). 

- A clean, clutter-free primary navigation clearly showing the search icon. 

- Prioritizing the most commonly accessed areas of your site on your primary menu. 

This optimization principle ties in closely with the psychological principle of simplicity.

What it means is that the mind is perpetually on the lookout for simpler explanations of complex things.

In the mobile site context, while a lot maybe going on in the background for you to serve up a seamless experience to the user, the latter should be able to enjoy effortlessness. 

Actionable tip

Employ lazy loading for the most important nuggets to appear above-the-fold. This enhances discoverability and accessibility immediately.  

Example

Daily Harvest

daily harvest above the fold mobile

Quick Takeaway

Keeping the most important elements above-the-fold (including the main menu, log in, primary CTA and live chat), can be instantly helpful for the mobile user. 

6. Improve response cues (the Doubt Avoidance principle)

While there are many varied sides to mCommerce, all of them seem to converge on one thing: touch.

This is why so much of mobile optimization UX revolves around how to make touch more effective and rewarding for the mobile user. 

This has connections with the psychological principle of doubt avoidance.

It’s to do with people continuing on a path rather than avoiding what they have started. 

In the mobile optimization world, if a user does not have enough tactile cues, it may lead them to continue making a mistake - only to be later met by frustration and delay. 

For example, if they add a product to cart and are not notified, they may miss out on the fact that they have done it at all. Now multiply this across products. It could increase the length of that session by piling up the number of unacknowledged add-to-cart taps. Similarly, let’s say the user is on a form and they are not offered the directional cue that an input is invalid right away, they’ll not be able to submit the form when the time comes. What’s worse, they wouldn’t come to know what the real problem is. 

Here are a few things to remember while incorporating tactile response cues:

- Use identifiable cues for critical tasks. For example, most sites that do effective mobile conversions place their added-to-cart cue on the top right hand side of the page. 

- Ask critical questions before having the cue designed. How central should the cue be? Does it have to co-exist with other essential elements?

Actionable tip

Design variations of tactical cues for the same need and then A/B test to find out what lands most intuitively with users. If it’s not intuitive, it does not deserve to be included. 

Example

Happy Socks

The following screenshots reveal how Happy Socks offers clear visual and tactile cues to users when they select a different age spectrum. 

happy socks tactile response mobile
happy socks tactile response mobile

Quick Takeaway

Clear framing, color blocking and contrasting can play a big role in creating cues that register faster. 

7. Introduce mobile-only coupons (the Reciprocity principle)

In 2020, 92% shoppers looked for coupons before buying online. And that number can only grow in the years to come.

Come to think of it, coupons are a win-win for you as a business and for loyal and potential buyers who need that extra nudge sometimes to make a purchase. 

When you offer mobile-only coupons, it’s a sign of reciprocity that indicates to users:

- a great reason to finish their purchases after browsing on their smartphones

- makes time-sensitive offers more attractive and accessible (because most people have their phones on them all the time)

In psychology, the principle of reciprocity is all about wanting to give back to those who we take something from.

The more you are able to trigger this principle as an emotion in your mobile users, the more likely they’ll come back to engage with you and shop from you.

A quick and effective way is to introduce mobile-only coupons. 

Here are a few pointers to remember and apply while offering mobile-only coupons:

- Have discounted items appear in relevant category pages. Create a separate sales section for mobile discounts to avoid confusion and drive traffic. 

- Ensure the time frame of the applicable coupon is understood clearly.You don’t want users trying to apply a coupon beyond the expiry date and being frustrated by it in the process. 

- Include a coupon code field in the shopping cart as well as the checkout page. This makes application of the coupon faster at the payment page without the user having to second guess. 

- Make use of success and error messages to update the status of the coupon application. They can appear on the mobile screen and also be sent as a message on the user’s number. 

Actionable tip

Add your mobile-only coupon code to your social media handles. This can enable a live discussion among people who have already availed it, making it more credible for those looking to avail it. 

Example

Fourth Dimension Club

In the following example, Fourth Dimension Club manages to get it right with one of their mobile landing pages - it’s all about the discounts and if someone’s unsure, the reviews are close at hand. 

fourth dimension club mobile discounts

On the other hand, Kettle & Fire harnesses the right-here-right-now focus of the mobile user to make a random offer. 

kettle & fire mobile offer example

Quick Takeaway

Make your mobile-only offers work harder by applying them across products that users are likely to search for on-the-go. (And also check out this ultimate guide for more ideas to drive mobile conversions.)

8. Make expert testimonials stand out (the Authority principle)

Let’s consider an on-the-go instance.

A celebrity who is also known to be a do-gooder comes on a global ad and requests audiences to donate to a certain relief fund.

The fund reaches its financial target in less than a day. 

Do you see what’s at play?

It’s the classic psychological principle of authority.

In our elaborated example, many people would go ahead and donate without even cross checking the facts.

The principle of authority, which was first stated by Robert Cialdini in his book “Influence: Science and Practice”, refers to the human tendency to believe that an authority figure carries wisdom and right judgment. 

Now when you put this principle into action for your mobile CRO, great things can happen.

For one, apart from your homepage, your landing pages can carry specific expert testimonials that can be used to drive credibility and existing benefit.

The user does not have to think other people haven’t tried what they are about to try. And that can solve more than half of your selling problem. 

While making your mobile landing pages more authoritative, here are a few best practices you may want to follow:

- Use a single column layout. This aligns with the top-down scrolling action that the typical mobile user makes. With multiple columns, elements may get hidden from the immediate page - leading to extra effort from the user and an overall clunky experience. 

- Use enough negative space for the testimonials to stand out. The quotes and/or client logos need to be clearly visible and easy to register. In this context, limiting background images may be a good idea. 

- Have the testimonials section appear within a few scrolls. Remember, the mobile user is usually short-on-time and is looking quickly to be convinced. So once they have understood your value proposition, they want to know about the experiences of others. 

Actionable tip

Make the testimonial section be in service of the primary CTA. The more they look like parts of the same narrative, the more likely users will see reasons to convert. 

Example

Armpocket

armpocket client testimonials mobile view
armpocket client testimonials mobile view
armpocket client testimonials mobile view

Quick Takeaway

If you don’t want to clutter your homepage or landing page with client logos and quotes, make sure you leave your users with a CTA that takes them to a relevant page that contains this information. 

Actively looking out to make your mobile product page shine? Check out this proven list that'll give you some great ideas.

9. Integrate user location (the Consistency principle)

With the advent and rapid evolution of the smartphone, another phenomenon has come to gain solid ground too. 

We’re talking about the “near me”search.

According to SEO Tribunal, 97% users learn about a local company by Googling about it.

Most of them don’t make contact until they are satisfied with having found out enough information.

And this means it’s all the more reason to ensure your mobile experience incorporates user location for better search and discovery. 

The user having access to more relevant and personalized results have to do directly with the psychological principle of consistency.

According to this principle, people have a tendency of being consistent with how they behaved in the past and repeating those actions.

So, if more personalized search results led to them buying earlier, it’s likely they’ll buy again. 

The following are a few best practices around incorporating user location for mobile optimization:

- Ask for permission. Always offer users the choice to turn on data. Automatic location activations would naturally fall under intrusion of privacy. 

- Use clear indicators. Make the tappable options easy-to-understand through clear yes and no, and also use intuitive colors such as green to depict a go-ahead and red to refuse.

- Explain why you need geolocation to be activated. A short explainer stating how the user can be benefitted typically can convince them to share their location with you. 

Actionable tip

Create relevant, geolocation-based splash screens to target different sections of your mobile audience. This can instantly create a more human connection. 

Example

Longchamp

longchamp mobile user location

Quick Takeaway

Featuring a simple and relevant location seeking splash screen can in fact optimize the mobile user’s experience by narrowing down language, cultural context, product availability etc. 

10. Create a compelling visual narrative (the Framing principle)

That great, old saying is always a good reminder when it comes to mobile optimization for your conversions to grow. 

Show, don’t tell. 

If you pause a while and think of how the typical mobile user isn’t interested in reading a lot, you’ll know what’s the next best thing to do.

Employ the help of powerful visuals to drive home the point of your brand and why it exists. 

This has a direct relationship with the psychological principle of framing.

This principle is all about behavior being influenced by loss, gain and how either is presented.

Users seem to avoid risks when presented with a gain frame and seek opportunity when faced with a loss frame. 

When you’re optimizing mobile experience for conversions, it’s a good idea to create an obvious balance between text and images with a certain bias towards the latter. The idea is to create as real-time an experience in the absence of an actual storefront. 

Here are a few best practices to make your sitewide photography work harder for your mobile audience. 

- Make lazy loading a priority. This will ensure heavier images and images that aren’t immediately needed can load later. You could use an available WordPress plugin to activate this feature. 

- Choose the best image format depending upon your context. Here’s a quick snapshot of what Google recommends. 

- Create a mobile image style guide. The guidelines, once set, can help you audit your older images so that you can figure out what’s working and what needs work. 

Actionable tip

Exporting photos in multiple sizes is an antidote for pixelated photo experiences. While a typical desktop user views images at 72 pixels per inch, a mobile user needs 200 pixels per inch at the least.  

Example

Heart Roasters

In the following screen grabs, our intention is to show how Heart Roasters aces their mobile site photography. They attempt a balance with enough text indicators and we must say, it’s successful. 

heart roasters mobile site photography
heart roasters mobile site photography

Quick Takeaway

Explore showcasing packaging along with raw materials, all shot with flair of course, to have your photos build a strong narrative. 

11. Make your written content engage (the Curiosity principle)

Now that we’ve explored some on how to approach images, it’s time to look at the optimization aligned ways to approach copy.

The reason why many mobile sites don’t convert is because users are not compelled to carry out the most critical tasks and reach the checkout stage.

There are often several reasons behind this, and a primary one is how the copywriting on the mobile site is. 

Is it chunky and difficult to comprehend? 

Is it too much information without saying enough about what the user may really be interested in? 

Is the writing able to build a big picture for users so that they’d naturally want to convert?

Many businesses fail to create a connection between the power of words and the experience they can potentially create for a user. 

It’s interesting how the psychological principle of curiosity gap can show the way out of this conundrum.

The idea behind this principle is that human beings are naturally geared to want to know more. 

But the problem with a mobile experience is that users expect you to do all the heavy-lifting, that too in the most interesting ways possible. 

Here are a few best practices that can make your copywriting answer your user’s biggest curiosities as they engage with your mobile site. 

  • Make your headlines do maximum work. This way, you won’t need to depend on chunks of written text to make a dent on the user’s already distracted mind. 
  • Place text in digestible pieces. Think bullets, think short sentences. Remember the reader who will potentially forget every word they read on your site. 
  • Maximize the above-the-fold space. This is what they see first and this represents the one section where their attention is still with you. This is where your value proposition needs to come out and set the stage on fire. 

Actionable tip

Actively prioritize what information you’d like users to process first. This should give you a flow chart of how your writing needs to be structured to help them successfully complete tasks. 

Example

Meow Meow Tweet

meow meow tweet mobile site content

Quick Takeaway

If you want your users to act in specific ways, you’ll have to bring their attention to those specifics through the way you use copy on your mobile site. 

12. Validate the user’s perceptions (the Labeling principle)

Whether it’s on desktop or on mobile, most users are essentially trying to answer a really simple but important question.

(But mobile users, who are most likely in a tearing hurry, needs this answered even quicker.)

What’s in it for me? 

This is a loaded question but if you’re keenly leading your optimization efforts on the smallest details of your mobile site, you’d know you must answer it.

It’s also amazing how the psychological principle of labeling, which is often used in marketing at large, gives us the clues to it. 

When users are looking for a specific product and then choosing it over others, it certainly means they are looking to define themselves through the use of it. 

Labeling is a phenomenon where a person treats an object as an extension of themselves in order to further reinforce their identity. 

Consider these examples:

I believe only in natural ingredients hence I want that aloe vera soap. 

I’m a vegan so I’m going to get that cruelty-free skirt. 

This is why you need to optimize your product pages with special focus on bringing out the story behind each product and what it might mean to your target audience. Here’s a quick checklist to consider:

- Make your product name convey something very specific and relatable. It can’t just be about the function. It has to be about what it evokes in the user for the latter to take the decision to convert. 

- Create a balance between description and story. Keep it succinct and make sure the user knows the facts behind the feelers. 

- Make all purchase-related information and benefits visible. This is the only way users will see more reason beyond identity labeling to add to cart. 

Actionable tip

Prioritize information on customization and personalization to keep the user engaged. 

Example

Away

away product page personalization
away product page personalization

Quick Takeaway

The position of the personalization option is important. In our example, it’s perfectly flanked by product description and add-to-cart. 

13. Indicate checkout progress clearly (the Anticipation principle)

As has already been declared elsewhere (and earlier in this very blog itself), the mobile user needs a very good reason to convert. (Check this list of brilliant examples to see what makes the mobile customer want to pay.)

While most browse, many can’t think of shopping unless they’re in front of their desktops.

And that’s what needs to change when you’re trying to optimize your mobile experience for conversions. 

This is where the psychological principle of anticipation enters the picture.

Anticipation is an experience where a user wants a certain outcome and desires to see themselves moving towards it.

Come to think about it, when users browse about products on your mobile site to later purchase from their desktops, it’s already anticipation in action.

They are already looking forward to discovering and then if the discovery matches their needs and expectations, even buying

Here’s a quick checklist of what you need to apply while creating effective progress bars for an excellent mobile checkout:

- Offer visual indicators for past, current and future status of progress. This is because the user needs to quickly understand their own journey in context to the checkout funnel you’ve created. 

- Use an animated indicator for any action that takes longer than 1 second. Without it, the user won’t know what’s happening and may want to jump off. 

- Apply a linear progress bar with a definitive start and end point. This instantly informs the user of their current status and what needs to happen next. 

Actionable tip

Use a progress bar that also denotes percentage done if actions along the way take 10 seconds or more. 

Example

Chewy

chewy mobile checkout progress example

Quick Takeaway

A visual indicator along with appropriate textual cues come together to make a checkout progress bar visible and relevant to the user. 

Looking for more in-depth ways to retain your mobile customers?

Let us run a free user experience audit for you and tell you what could be causing the drop offs. 

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