High Streets Initiative · 3 October 2017

A fraction of small firms are tapping into the £27bn mobile shopping boom

Man with credit card and mobile phone doing online payment, web money and e-commerce
With six in ten millennials using smartphones to shop on a daily basis, optimised mobile experiences could be key in capturing future generations of consumers

Online purchases made from smartphones and tablets will hit £27bn in 2017, new findings have predicted, yet a failure to optimise websites for such devices could see the vast majority of small firms miss out on the mobile shopping boom.

In a survey of over 4,000 small business owners and online consumers, payment platform PayPal was able to highlight considerably different attitudes towards mobile shopping between the two groups.

The research found that just 18 per cent of small online businesses had mobile-friendly websites, despite shoppers expecting to spend £43bn a year by 2020 from their smartphone or tablet.

This pointed to a growing gap between how consumers expect to be able to shop online and the importance small business owners place on an optimised shopping experience.

A third of all business owners surveyed had no plans to optimise their website for mobile devices as they currently “do well enough” already. However, a poor mobile journey was the number one frustration for consumers when shopping online.

Read more: The crippling ecommerce mistakes even Amazon is guilty of making

Commenting on the evident mobile shopping boom, Nicola Longfield, PayPal UK’s director of small business, conceded that with all the responsibilities of running a company, the website was unlikely to sit as a top priority.

“But, actually, with some small changes that are simple to implement, small businesses can really change the experience for consumers and increase conversion rates,” she said, before outlining some key aspects of an optimised shopping experience.

“Shoppers are increasingly frustrated by websites which require them to pinch the screen to zoom in and scroll endlessly to find miniature checkout buttons.

“Knowing your customer is all-important. The profile of a UK mobile shopper is very similar to an online shopper, so it really is a case of fine-tuning business practices to make the most of customers’ habits.

“This could be sharing promotions on customers’ favourite social channels, scheduling marketing emails to coincide with peak mobile shopping times, or simply offering recognisable payment options to give shoppers that extra confidence in their purchases.”

By reassuring customers with greater security, Longfield said, business owners in turn would be rewarded with stronger sales.

Our Bricks & Clicks video series is helping retailers strike a balance between growing a brand online and establishing a physical presence

Higher average order value

The study also revealed how high typical order values had become when shopping on digital devices. For a regular small business, average sales values sat between £10 and £30, but PayPal claimed consumers were will to pay around three times that when shopping on their mobiles and tablets.

“People are now willing to go through with quite sizeable transactions on their mobile, so for small businesses, if they don’t have that secure and easy way for consumers to buy on their mobile, the chances are they will lose that sale,” Longfield added.

PayPal highlighted companies in number of different sectors that had benefitted from a mobile-first approach.

Martin Mansfield, commercial director at park and ride service Looking4Parking, said the introduction of a one-click payment option had increased sales.

“We were one of the first in our industry to set up a mobile site and are always looking to provide a quicker, simpler and more satisfying experience to users, regardless of the device they are using,” he said.

Meanwhile, Zak Edwards, founder of customisable gifts store Prezzybox, said his business had benefitted through encouraging staff to test the site on mobile devices

He added: “More traffic than ever is coming from mobile devices, so we need to be sure that our customers enjoy shopping with us.

Read more from the Business Advice High Streets Initiative

This article is part of a wider campaign called the High Streets Initiative, a new section of Business Advice championing independent and small retailers by identifying the issues that put Britain’s high streets under pressure. Visit our High Streets Initiative section to find out more.

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.