Mobile devices are impacting a growing portion of total retail sales. Online retailers need to cater to mobile shoppers who may or may not purchase on their device.

34.5% of U.S. e-commerce sales were made on a mobile device in 2017. Mobile’s share of U.S. online sales is expected to reach nearly 50% by 2020, according to research firm eMarketer Inc. estimates.

The research firm estimates that mobile sales, which includes sales via smartphones and tablets, will increase 32.7% in 2018 to reach $208.29 billion from $157.02 billion last year. That would represent 39.6% of U.S. e-commerce sales. The majority of mobile commerce sales, 71.5%, in 2018 will take place on smartphones, with tablets making up the remaining share, according to eMarketer.

EMarketer’s projections are roughly in line with a related forecast released by Forrester Research Inc. Forrester‘s forecast suggests smartphones will impact 34% of total U.S. retail sales in 2018, which is more than $1 trillion. By 2022, the research firm estimates smartphones will impact 42% of total retail sales. The firm defines impact as a measure of internet research’s effect on offline retail sales.

Even with smartphones’ growing impact on retail sales, only 2.2% of total U.S. retail sales took place on a smartphone last year, Forrester says. E-commerce sales will account for 12.9% of total retail sales in 2017, and will increase to 13.8% in 2018, Forrester estimates.

“Shoppers have integrated smartphones into their product research at every phase of the customer life cycle, from discovery to price checking in-store,” Forrester principal analyst Brendan Miller writes in the newly released “2018 Retail Best Practices:  Mobile Web.”


Because mobile devices influence so many sales, online retailers should ensure that their mobile website is top notch and can serve both shoppers wanting to make a purchase and shoppers wanting to gather more information, the report suggests.

“The worst thing retailers can do is neglect their on-the-go shoppers because they may have low initial intent to purchase on the mobile web,” Miller writes.

Home page design, personalized content and streamlined checkout are all keys to a useful mobile website, according to Forrester.

The mobile home page, for example, is a page that shoppers continually navigate back to because mobile shoppers often don’t have multiple tabs open to save products like they do on desktops. And so, the home page should provide recommended products tailored to that shopper and make it easy for shoppers to quickly browse products, Miller writes.


“Your home page is your mobile website’s North Star,” Miller writes.

Along with that, the mobile site can use the shopper’s location and factor in a nearby store’s local inventory. In fact, 48% of U.S. online adults look for product availability before they buy in a store, and 30% of consumers say they are less likely to visit a store if its in-store product inventory is not available online, according to a Forrester online survey of 4,509 U.S. consumers age 18-88.

Site search should be personalized to each shopper, Forrester recommends. For example, the retailer should make suggestions while the consumer is typing in the search box based on past searchers and suggest keywords based on their on-site behavior.

Another way to help shoppers navigate the site is with headers that update on every page, clearly labeled “back buttons” and visual progress indicators, such as labeled steps during check out.


Other mobile best practices Forrester recommends are for online retailers to offer quick payment methods like PayPal and have grayed out example text beneath a form field. Checkout should be less than 10 fields to fill out and three “steps” or less.