Smartphone GrowthEverywhere you turn, it seems, people are talking about how understanding context is the most important aspect of building a better web.

No one, though, has captured it as well as Code and Theory’s Dan Gardner, co-founder and executive creative director of the creative agency, and Mike Treff, managing partner of the agency’s product design group, who wrote an article for FastCompany titled “The Next Big Thing in Responsive Design.” (Among other accomplishments, Code and Theory redesigned the LA Times website and Mashable, and created award-winning marketing programs for Burger King, Dr Pepper and Maybelline New York.) Though the whole thing is worth reading, this is the sentence that matters most for our purposes:

“As brands become more publisher-like, they’ll also need to incorporate a responsive philosophy that adapts to the user so that they can reach them at the right time, with the right messaging, and an understanding of cultural events.”

It’s a strong statement in and of itself, but it becomes even more impactful when you consider that the user is more mobile than ever.

According to our latest Ecommerce Quarterly, which we released yesterday, smartphone users are now responsible for 16% of all ecommerce traffic—a share of traffic that’s now larger than tablets. The traffic share is driven by a 120% YOY increase in smartphone usage, but users are still rarely using their phones to actually make a purchase. They continue to drive less than 4% of revenue.

And with most sites “optimized” for mobile in the traditional sense, it’s clear that online retailers need to do more to convert customers during moments of inspiration. That’s where the above quote from Gardner and Treff comes into play: Context is probably the most important aspect of mobile commerce, because your mobile customers lack the patience of your other customers.

For example, a mobile visitor:

  • has a 50 percent higher bounce rate
  • a 30 percent lower add-to-cart rate, and
  • is 10 percent more likely to abandon cart

Mobile commerce optimization, then, isn’t just about building a site using responsive design; it’s about building one that responds to the customer.

To get the level of insight needed to do this, ask yourself questions using the “5 Ws” approach:

Who’s visiting?

Are those customers visiting your site new or returning? Are they logged in? Creating segments will help you answer the remainder of the questions with more precision than you would be able to otherwise. And, when you’re ready to turn that knowledge into action, you’ll be able to create more targeted experiences.

What are they doing?

Are your customers browsing? Buying? Bouncing? Your analytics and site search data will give you insight into what’s working on mobile—and what needs to be improved. Understanding what your customers are trying to do means you can reshape your site to help them accomplish that with less friction.

When are they visiting?

Is it morning or night? Are your visitors on broadband or wireless networks? Can you parse out whether visitors are “showrooming”? Answering these types of questions can help you determine what improvements you can make that can increase a propensity to buy (such as PayPal integration or faster load times).

Where are they coming from?

Search, social, email, advertising? Channels matter. Customer intent isn’t always to make a purchase, and nowhere is this more apparent than where a customer is coming from. Targeting based on channel can ensure you keep consistent the message that got your customer to visit your site in the first place.

Why are they using their device?

With 90% of users switching between devices to complete a shopping goal, your customers likely won’t complete their transactions on a mobile device. Whether it’s a shopping cart carry-over feature or letting a customer easily email PDPs, you’ll want to ensure they can pick up where they left off.

Making sure you walk through these questions—and execute a plan based off them—will reap rewards.

Smartphone image courtesy of Shutterstock.