More on Apples

It’s been a few weeks since we wrote about our test case of mobile optimization and its impact on ecommerce transactions.

Mobile Optimization in eCommerce

The short version is that all the key metrics went up.

We could only take the story so far, though, since we’re dealing with client sales data. We left out “desktop” (non-mobile) stats, for instance, and this raised some obvious questions. The most frequent of these was, “were the increased mobile transactions cannibalizing desktop transactions?”

Here are those numbers again comparing 3 weeks of control (no mobile optimization) against 3 weeks with typical Responsive Design (RWD) patterns, this time with “desktop” figures.


  • Conversion rate: +65.71%
  • Transactions: +112.50%
  • Revenue: +101.25%

Android Devices:

  • Conversion rate: +407.32%
  • Transactions: +333.33%
  • Revenue: +591.42%

Non-Mobile Devices:

  • Conversion rate: +20.30%
  • Transactions: +71.11%
  • Revenue: +41.13%

As you can see, non-mobile conversions went up as well. So, it’s hard to say that mobile gains were simply visitors who were previously browsing on mobile and then later bouncing to a desktop device to purchase. Maybe a small portion of it was. But the data doesn’t support the speculation, and nobody wants a browse-only ecommerce store any way. The more likely path would be that visitors who can’t purchase from your mobile store are bouncing somewhere else entirely. Like Amazon.

This raises another question, though. Wouldn’t the sitewide trends suggest that mobile conversion rate would go up as well by a similar rate even left unchanged? That simply isn’t the case with the retail projects we’re familiar with. Optimizations that effectively ignore the small screen prove to have far less impact on mobile conversions.

This is why we got scolded by that one guy for not running an A/B test. For the record, we do a lot of A/B testing. Mobile optimization doesn’t fail the “is it an obvious improvement?” question, though, so the additional effort didn’t occur to us as practical. That said, we’d love to go back in time and reintroduce the test as A/B, if only for self-gratification.

What we can do, though, is look instead at sustained growth. Mobile conversions continue to outpace sitewide gains, and mobile transactions now represent a significant portion of revenue. That’s saying a lot considering we’ve been doing an increasing amount of post-launch marketing + with O’Neill, most of which has a far greater impact on non-mobile traffic.

It wouldn’t be fair to compare figures from the extended Holiday sales frenzy, so let’s look at a comparison of the control versus a similar time span in slower, post-Holiday January:


  • Conversion rate: +162.50%
  • Transactions: +382.61%
  • Revenue: +370.61%


  • Conversion rate: +71.70%
  • Transactions: +177.03%
  • Revenue: +136.06%

You’ll notice we aren’t parsing device types in these figures. We’ve grouped mobile devices, leaving tablets out of this group since our mobile optimizations didn’t target tablets. As a sidenote, the modifications occurred prior to the release of the iPad mini.

You’ll probably also notice the non-mobile increases are pretty significant considering the control already included the new “desktop” design. Again, these gains are due to our active, post-launch marketing including retargeting, SEO, and PPC rather than simple sitewide, organic growth. This is important to note since nearly all of this marketing (everything except email) targets non-mobile traffic. In other words, the additional cost required to make these mobile conversion gains was really just the cost of the RWD optimization, something that was very quickly recouped.

The story still isn’t complete, but hopefully we’ve filled it out a bit. If you know of any similar tests, we’d love to hear about them. We have more in the works ourselves, so maybe this will even get us blogging again.


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ECommerce & Responsive Web Design

The good news is that mobile traffic tends to increase whether you build your site to welcome that traffic or not – it should come as no surprise that mobile usage is trending up. If you’ll allow us a Field of Dreams reference, the players have already shown up, and they’re trying to play ball in your cornfield.

Time to Build the Ballfield

If you’re lucky, some of your visitors will even make do with your cornfield. As a case in point, one of our clients was seeing 21% of their total site revenue coming in from mobile devices (phones) even though the site had never been optimized for mobile use.

Statistics can be misleading.

As with traffic, mobile transactions tend to increase on their own as well. This was definitely the case here, but even the untrained eye could tell this particular site had plenty of mobile usability issues. The site was ready for a full redesign, one that considered all devices.

This isn’t a full case study, so we’ll speed past the design requirements and goals and leave you with an overview: we redesigned the site to be responsive.

Fast forward again to sixty days after we launched the new site, and mobile revenue had increased 107.65%.

In other words, mobile revenue had more than doubled within 60 days. In this same period of time, mobile revenue as a percentage of total sales grew from 21% to 29%.

Let’s slow this back down. It’s fair to look at desktop losing share to mobile and wonder if growth in one channel isn’t simply offset by decline in another. It’s fair, but we have yet to see it.

At sixty days post-redesign, the site’s total sales had gone up 24.4%. So, while mobile is indeed outpacing other channels, overall totals are still increasing. Mobile does not cannibalize desktop.

That growth from 21% to 29% is interesting for two reasons.

First, mobile revenue as a % of total sales looks beyond any possible spikes in site traffic due to launch PR, seasonal activity, etc. We can see mobile performance regardless of what outside factors are doing to the baseline. Even at 21% of total sales, mobile was underperforming.

Second, 29%! Twenty-nine percent of all online sales for this site are coming from a mobile phone. And in sixty days, revenue from that channel had more than doubled. There should be no question on the effectiveness of responsive design in ecommerce except, “How soon can we do it?” or, “How soon can we improve it?”.

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