Back in 2013 we decided to test the water and launched a touch-optimised t-shirt designer. By Christmas of 2014, conversions via smartphones had doubled and basket size was up five-fold. We always thought Spreadshirt would work on tablets, but I can’t say we expected smartphones to become a key part of our growth strategy.
We don’t have a mobile-first strategy; mobile IS the strategy. This focus works not just for our end-consumers, but our partners too. For those who don’t know, Spreadshirt is an ecommerce platform. Our sellers set up virtual shops to spread their own merchandising, designers add their ideas to our global marketplaces, and buyers can choose from a shop, the marketplace, or create their own, in a style, colour and size to suit them.
By 2014, sales via all mobile devices were 22 per cent of all orders; double the previous year. Not only that, but the basket size had no restriction either. Smaller screens were supposed to mean smaller basket size. However, we found that during the winter of 2014/15 our mobile shoppers were buying hoodies at £20 plus. Our consumers were changing their buying and selling habits. They were moving to mobile, so we decided to up our mobile game too by making it one of the top priorities of our growth strategy.
Since then visits have converted to sales and smartphone sales are increasing as sales via other mobile devices fall off. In 2016 we saw growth of over 40 per cent in orders via smartphones globally. In the UK and Europe, the share of orders via smartphones is up to 73 per cent.
So how did we get to this point? How can retail businesses put mobile at the centre of the growth strategy? For us it involved simplification of the underlying technology and the user experience.
We took a long, hard look at our technology and decided to fix problems which had been bugging us for years. We moved from our legacy systems to an agile development process, which meant being able to innovate with every future iteration. We needed to do two things for our users; make it easier to buy and sell. So we created tools to help drive sales and improve the shopping experience. Here’s a glimpse out how we put mobile first.
1) The checkout process
The single-page checkout launched in 2014. We simplified mobile payments, making the process fully responsive and giving customers a convenient and intuitive checkout. We predicted that mobile payments would become more important to consumers, and the single-page checkout, along with other developments, worked. We saw mobile orders go up 60 per cent in the first few days after the launch.
2) Creating a Seller Area
We now see more sales coming directly from smartphones and our sellers have gone mobile too. A mobile-friendly command centre means our sellers can manage their businesses from their smartphones too. This new Seller Area, launched in 2016, is a space where they can view their shops, bring their ideas to life and publish new designs and products internationally.
3) Making a partner app
We also gave our sellers some back-end tools in a mobile app where they can see their sales activity in real-time. They can review details about orders, monitor sales statistics and receive push notifications about new products and promotions.
We’ve had to make a steep investment in mobile since 2013 – and we advocate all businesses to do the same as we’re seeing the effects of our “Mobile IS the Strategy” approach. Shop registrations are up 28 per cent globally (since Q3 2016) and the number of uploaded designs is up 36 per cent.
These figures reflect, as suggested by The Mobile Mandate Report, that “2016 marked the first month where over 50 per cent of online purchases involved a smartphone”. It also predicted that by 2020 80 per cent of all online retail will involve a smartphone.
By monitoring customers behaviour, you can respond quickly to trends for smartphone shopping. If anything, we now know smartphone buyers and sellers want their retail experience to be easy and enjoyable – and the key to creating a good smartphone experience is to make complicated processes look simple. The smartphone was an unexpected sales tool for us, but it’s now at the centre of our growth strategy.
Philip Rooke is CEO of Spreadshirt.