Top tips for mobile-first retail

Ever since the smartphone arrived on the scene, there’s been talk of mobile-first retail and its role in e-commerce.

But what exactly is mobile-first retail, why does it matter, and how can you shift your business model to be genuinely mobile-first?

Mobile first retail
October 14, 2021


The mobile-first world

Mobile-first is a strategy that recognises that a consumer’s first experience of a business is likely to be on a mobile device, and that’s most probably a smartphone.

It involves optimising your website to provide a seamless mobile experience where business information, products, reviews and purchasing are all readily available in the palm of your customer’s hand.

As Total Retail explains, mobile-first is very different from mobile responsive, where most businesses currently sit.

While mobile responsive refers to websites that are essentially built for desktop first then tailored to function on mobile second, mobile-first is all about creating an experience designed for mobile and scaled up to accommodate larger devices like tablets and desktops.


Why does mobile-first matter?

Mobile-first is all about convenience. Consumers have their devices with them wherever they go, using them to search, review and purchase products.

why does mobile-first matter

The trend began with the smartphone about a decade ago but has rapidly increased, driven by improved mobile networks like 5G, along with apps, e-commerce options, and social media.

In 2019, search engine Google also introduced mobile-first indexing as its default. The upshot is the search giant prioritises mobile websites and content over desktop sites. In short, if you’re not mobile-first, you’re less likely to be found in web searches.

Some salient statistics

  • In 2021, mobile devices (excluding tablets) generated 54.8 percent of global website traffic. The figure has consistently hovered above 50 percent since 2017. (Statista)
  • In 2021, mobile e-commerce is expected to rake in $3.5 trillion globally and make up almost three-quarters (72.9 percent) of e-commerce sales (Statista).


How to embrace mobile-first

As Retail Dive explains, mobile-first isn’t about considering mobile a different channel; it’s about connecting all your retail channels in one mobile space, unifying the in-store and digital experience.

It’s about providing seamless pathways to purchase on a mobile device, which customers can use wherever they are, including in-store.

So, where do you begin?

Start with the user

A mobile-first strategy is all about considering then catering to the customer purchasing pathway on a mobile device.

That journey can begin on mobile in many places, through the recommendations of friends, through social media, via an internet search, on a retailer’s website, inside a retailer’s app.

It’s about defining those pathways, making the journey simple, and ensuring the products are easy to purchase.


Top mobile-first tips

It’s all visual – Mobile-first retail is visual. It allows consumers to see and understand products on a mobile device quickly. That means each item should be clickable, with a clear but brief product description.

Avoid large content chunks – Mobile involves a small screen. It’s not the place for lengthy epistles about products, business ethos and other written content.

mobile-first tips-for-retailers

Allow for instant purchase – The key to successful mobile-first retail is conversion. That means the products should be easy to purchase right then and there on a mobile device, in one single click.

Consider payment options – Purchasing instantly involves payment options and they should be seamless. Ensure the payment methods customers want are integrated into your website, apps and instore. These include the likes of Apple Pay, PayPal, Visa Checkout, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, etc.

Offer product locations and availability – Although a customer might discover a product on their mobile device, they may still want to experience it in-store or enjoy the instant gratification of a physical purchase.

Ensure product location and availability are included in the mobile-first experience and that your inventory management caters to the omnichannel experience.

(You can find our tips on inventory management here, or view technology that helps avoid out-of-stocks here.)

Get social – One of the major developments in recent years has been social shopping, where customers purchase the item they like instantly on social media. Are you catering to this trend?

A united front – It might be mobile-first, but the strategy isn’t just mobile. Smart Brief notes: “…more than two-thirds of consumers move between devices when shopping online, and 98 percent of them access multiple devices each day”.

“Two-thirds initiate the conversion journey on a smartphone and 61 percent purchase on a desktop. And the experience must be seamless.

“Two out of three consumers say a mobile-friendly site makes them more likely to buy, and nearly three-quarters are more likely to return.”


The final word

We live in a mobile-first world where consumers are rarely separated from their smartphones. It only makes sense that retailers should be embracing this with a mobile-first retail strategy.

In the process, retailers offer their consumers convenience and a seamless customer experience that unites the digital and physical retail world.

More importantly, mobile-first meets the customers with products, information and purchasing power in the place of the customer’s choosing, at the moment they intend to buy.

You can find more insight into the latest retail trends here.