Are Customers Shopping Online with Mobile Devices?

The importance of mobile eCommerce and why online businesses should optimize their sites for the growing number of mobile users who make purchases online.

Mobile ecommerce trends

A large shift in the way we use internet-connected devices is occurring and this is affecting online businesses which run an eCommerce website. Smartphones and tablets are replacing the personal computer, which in the past, was the only way customers could make online purchases. While plenty of customers continue to make online purchases the traditional way, there is a growing trend in the number of online purchases with mobile devices. This means a larger customer base for eCommerce sites to target.

Surprising Facts About Mobile eCommerce

  • A study from Shopify (a populuar eCommerce hosting platform) shows that 50.3% of traffic to stores was from mobile devices.
  • Even more surprising, 1/3rd of all eCommerce purchases came from a mobile device.
  • Mobile eCommerce is growing and is expected to grow, outreaching the number of purchases made from a personal computer.

Differences in Device Type

When this data was segmented by device, significant differences between smartphones and tablets emerged. The study showed conversion rates varied based on device type, most broadly by whether the person was using a tablet or a smartphone. One finding was particularly interesting: tablets have higher conversion rates than smartphones.

Monetate's eCommerce Quarterly Report reported statistics on conversion rates in the US as follows for the 3rd Quarter of 2014:

Device Type Conversion Rate
Traditional (Laptop/Computer) 2.8%
Tablet device 2.42%
Smartphone 0.80%


Why Tablets Convert Better than Smartphones?

The reasons for this are a source of some interest, and some possible answers have been suggested:

  • Smartphone screen sizes are too small for effectively using eCommerce sites
  • Smartphones and tablets are used for different activities in general
What stops you buying on your mobile device? Percentage
Don't trust internet security on my phone when paying 19.5%
The screen size is too small to properly review items 43.8%
I find it hard to browse and ensure that I'm getting the right price 10.3%
I don't feel comfortable 26.4%


Here, screen size seems to be a deciding factor more than anything else. Although Smartphone screen sizes are increasing, tablets will always be larger as a display due to their purpose. The “I don't feel comfortable” factor appears to be decreasing with the growing trend of mobile purchasing, and the internet security factor could be explained by people being more likely to use their Tablet in their home wi-fi environment, where they'd feel as secure as if they were on a laptop or desktop device.

Preparing for the Future of eCommerce

While conversion rates are lower for mobile devices, there is a large number of mobile users shopping online. Half of users that visit eCommerce websites are on mobile devices and of those that make an actual purchase, nearly 1/3 are made from mobile devices. Furthermore, this uphill trend of mobile users will continue to grow. The future is for mobile devices and it is prudent for all online businesses to optimize their eCommerce website for mobile users.

Some tools to help you get started are available for simulating a mobile device and assessing the usability. One of the great ways to check your current usability status is via Google's Pagespeed Insights tool available at which now not only provides loading speed information, but User Experience rankings for both desktop and

About the author

  • Rehan Jaffer is a programmer who specializes in eCommerce development and Javascript. As a child, he aspired to be an inventor. He loved learning and experimenting with whatever he could get his hands on and always dreamed of a day when he would be able to build a robot himself. Now, Rehan is able to write code in most major languages and has co-developed the launch version of the Web Production System to be used for Board Pack creation and generation, for use by clients such as Easyjet and the Central Bank of England.

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