Mobile users are five times more likely to abandon a site when it’s not optimized.

Not only do 72% of smartphone owners report that they want mobile-friendly sites, 67% are more likely to buy on mobile-optimized sites versus ones not optimized and 74% will return later to a mobile site that functions well, according to a new Google Inc. study. “What Users Want Most From Mobile Sites Today,” conducted by e-commerce technology provider Sterling Commerce, a subsidiary of IBM Corp., and research firm SmithGeiger, surveyed in July 1,088 U.S. smartphone owners about their mobile commerce preferences.

The research also reveals that consumers are 61% more likely to leave a site right away if it doesn’t give them the information they are looking for. In that case, 79% say they’ll search for another mobile site to do the job.

Retailers concerned with how their brand is perceived should take note: 55% of consumers say a poor experience on a mobile site hurts their opinion of a brand overall, 52% say it makes them less likely to engage with a company, 48% feel frustrated or annoyed by it, and 36% feel like they’ve wasted their time. And if consumers liked the brand or company to begin with, a bad mobile experience hurts even more—66% report they are disappointed when a merchant they thought well of fails to meet their mobile expectations.

“Not having a mobile-optimized web site is a lot more damaging than a retailer might think—it’s not just about losing a sale,” says Brett Goffin, industry director, retail, at Google. “It’s doubly bad, because you lose out on a long-term customer.”

What mobile shoppers want, according to the study, is:

  • Speed—sites loading in five seconds or less, selected by 81% of smartphone owners.
  • Store directions or operating hours, 74%.
  • Store contact information, 64%.
  • Product information, 61%.
  • Ability to purchase or place an order, 50%. 

“We do see on the Google side that between 30% and 40% of product search is local in nature,” Goffin says. That underscores the importance of retailers operating good mobile sites so that consumers on the go can obtain the information they want when they search on a smartphone. “We want customers to find what they’re looking for,” he says. “We do want retailers to be educated that mobile sites are different than PC browser sites and customers are looking for different information.”

In terms of features and functions, the study reveals that top among consumers’ desires for mobile sites are: an easy to find and use search bar (78%); needing just one or two clicks for more information (78%); the site fits the small screen size (76%); it looks clean and efficient (74%); an option to go to the full site version (74%); non-scrolling forms with few fields (73%); an easy way to save information for later (73%);  big buttons for fingers (69%); “click to call” the business (66%); and scrolling in one direction only, either up-down or left-right (64%).

The retailers who incorporate these features will reap rewards, Google says. Inc., an online seller of perfume, candles and skin care and aromatherapy products that is No. 140 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, boosted mobile sales by 48% when it launched a mobile-friendly site, the retailer says.

Prior to optimizing the site at the end of last year, mobile visitors were converting and spending less than their desktop counterparts, says Michael Nadboy, vice president, online marketing and strategic development at To turn that around, the retailer streamlined the shopping process for mobile shoppers, including condensing product pages and requiring fewer steps to checkout, he says. Since then mobile visits to have risen 120% year over year and the mobile conversion rate has gone up 50%.