Whether it was browsing, researching or buying, mobile’s massive contribution to Black Friday sales –a jump in digital sales of 24%, according to Salesforce, with 60% of online traffic and 42% of sales coming from mobile devices – proves the pivotal importance of having a mobile website that captures attention and drives conversions.
Opportunities to cash in on how users find businesses and offers is huge, but the bigger question is: what do marketers *really* need to do to deliver consumers a mobile experience they can’t resist? Some helpful guidance comes from Google in Germany, which last week took the wraps off its first Mobile Speed Leaderboards report developed with MMA Germany (the local council of the Mobile Marketing Association) and revealed the list of websites (belonging to top-notch brands operating in the country) that are literally leading the pack.
So, what distinguishes leaders from the also-rans? In a word: speed.
Last year Google delivered the industry a wake-up call with results that showed over half (53%) of consumers abandon mobile websites that take longer than three seconds to load. This year Google is going one better, providing a new benchmark for fast mobile loading times.
The leaderboards – based on the top 400 retail and travel websites provided by the major German consumer research firm GfK (Gesellschaft für Konsumgüter) and performance metrics from open source measurement tool provider Webpagetest.org – draw on two key user-centric metrics to rank websites. These are Speed Index, or the time it takes to fully display a page, and First Interactive, or the time it takes for the user to be able to view and interact with a website.
“Both of these metrics are imperative for a good user experience and are therefore useful for evaluating the performance of a mobile website,” observes Dominik Wöber, Head of Performance Sales, Central Europe at Google. The aim, he tells me, is to provide a new benchmark for fast mobile loading times, “one that will spur companies to meet and exceed the general user expectation of a load time of three seconds.” There are also plans to extend the leaderboard to other industries and countries to provide these metrics on a regular basis.
Companies in the mobile fast lane
The winners’ circle lists the top five fastest websites across 12 categories of retail and travel.
They include bonprix.de, the mobile online fashion and apparel shop belonging to Bonprix Handelsgesellschaft, a subsidiary of German commerce giant Otto Group, that takes 2.7 seconds to load (stealing the lead on Amazon, that comes in at fourth place), and flug24.de, a portal where consumers can find and book last-minute flights. (For the complete list of companies check out thisinteractive infographic from Google.)
Earlier Google research conducted by website testing company SOASTA pointed out that decreasing load speeds by just one second can boost conversions by nearly 27%. It’s a data point Bonprix has baked into its corporate DNA. “For us, performance tuning is a central task in e-commerce,” Karsten Uhlig, Bonprix Vice President E-Commerce & Business Intelligence, said in a statement. “Minimizing loading times is thus a permanent, process-related challenge, and requires constant focus across departments and responsibilities.” Speed is the North Star metric that defines success and confirms the company’s strategy to invest in the “performance [of our shop] right from the beginning.”
But not all companies have followed this approach.
“Speed Index is the decisive KPI for the ranking in the leaderboard, but the majority of companies are still lagging far behind the user expectation of three seconds,” Google’s Wöber explains. With loading times of 7-11 seconds for the visual section of a mobile website alone, it’s clear a large number of companies have a long way to go.
Optimizing for consumer connection and conversions
Fortunately, there are many ways to optimize mobile websites by removing what can drain performance. Images can slow down loading times, render-blocking scripts can prevent a website from being displayed quickly, and re-directs can waste time (and consumers’ patience if they don’t point to a mobile website (instead of a desktop destination). Malte Ubl, Senior Staff Engineer & AMP Engineering lead at Google, recommends companies explore ways to “cut down on unnecessary re-directions and boost weight-trimming measures.” (Best practice is to make sure total weight of the website is 500 KB or under.)
Google’s research around what matters – and what companies must optimize – for best results dovetails with other industry research released last week. The State Of Mobile Conversions, an analysis of mobile landing page conversion rates and the factors that affect them from Instapage, a company that offers an end-to-end solution for quickly building, integrating, and optimizing landing pages, confirms that loading speed is one of “three main factors” alongside responsive design and personalization that impact mobile conversions.
Surprisingly, Pharmaceuticals (32.16%), Internet Software (26%), Media (25.18%) and E-Commerce & Retail (25.15%) lead in mobile conversion rates. The data tells two stories: either these verticals are crushing it when it comes to optimizing their mobile web experience, or verticals at the low end of the scale – Financial Services (17.85%), Real Estate (17.07%) and Travel (16.35% – have prioritized mobile apps. The jury is out on the root cause for lower conversion rates, but the report suggests “mobile app early- adopters” made a poor choice and now risk leaving money on the table. “With so much time invested in their mobile apps, their mobile web presence has taken a hit.”
Overall, Instapage landing pages were found to “demonstrate significantly higher conversion rates for mobile users.” Specifically, the average conversion rate for Instapage mobile landing pages is a whopping 28.63%, compared to the industry average of 2.35%.
This result is no doubt linked to a list of key factors and capabilities deemed crucial to delivering high performance – including creation speed (the rate at which landing pages can be built and published) and advanced capabilities (for example, A/B testing, lead attribution analytics, dynamic personalization and integrated collaboration across the design review process) – where Instapage got high marks.
[Disclosure: As a mobile analyst I assisted Instapage in conducting the analysis of marketing automation, Content Management Systems (CMS) and other landing page software solutions included in the report and the assessment of the experiences, benefits and limitations associated with each solution.]
While each approach has its pros and cons, the Instapage report highlights a checklist of key criteria marketers should have top of mind when reviewing solutions to create and optimize mobile landing pages. It also drives home the importance of being able to deliver personal, relevant and friction-free landing pages as part of a more comprehensive strategy to build consumer connection and boost conversions.
Mobile websites benefit from how consumers search, find and interact with content and companies. Mobile website landing pages are the lead capture pages that power the campaign call-to-action. An increasing body of research shows both must meet customer expectations for speed and demand for an amazing experience.
[Disclosure: In addition to my work as a mobile analyst, researching and documenting trends including the growth of the mobile market in Germany, I serve as the Chief Content Officer of the MMA Germany, a position for which I am not paid.]