Could Usable Mobile Web Be the New $300 Million Button?

28 Jul

The $300M button serves as a keystone of the value of User Experience (UX) in web design. For those less familiar, this case study reflects how a simple change – in this case, adding a “Check out as guest” option to an e-checkout process – can result in a huge impact to the bottom line. Simply put, not forcing someone to register in order to check out solved a major usability hurdle and user obstacle which resulted in a $300 million increase in revenue in a single year.

Mobile usability is at that same crux now. Like the nascent web of late 90’s, the ability to complete transactions on the mobile web exists; however, in most cases, the process is so arduous that many fail or don’t attempt it. There is ample evidence that people want to – and will – purchase via mobile devices if given the “opportunity”.

For many sites, however, the actual purchase process is laden with desktop mentality, creating a process which is difficult if not impossible to accomplish on mobile devices, particularly those with smaller screens. With mobile ecommerce expected to top $17B this year – including $1 out of every $10 being spent coming from mobile, the rewards for creating a usable mobile e-Commerce experience are evident. And the results from companies who have made the effort are even more compelling.

The Case for Usable Mobile Commerce

In Brad Frost’s (@bradfrost) recent UX Mobile Immersion session, he highlighted the gains to be made with mobile-friendly shopping experiences. He cited a particular example from O’Neill beach clothing. They did a responsive retrofitting and then selected 3 random weeks to swap the responsive design for their existing site. The results were impressive to say the least, seeing large increases in conversion, transactions and revenue on iOS, and even larger increases on Android devices.

Aspect iOS Android
Conversion Rates ↑ 66% ↑ 407%
Transactions ↑ 112.5% ↑ 333%
Revenue ↑ 101% ↑ 571%
Table 1: Mobile sales increases when O’Neill switched to a responsive web design
SOURCE: Brad Frost, “Using Atomic Design to Create Responsive Interfaces” – UXIM 2014, April 2014

These results have been replicated several times over by other companies. Skinny Ties implemented their mobile storefront and saw significant purchase increases from iOS users. Homage clothing instituted a full responsive design of their site.

Company Aspect iPhone Overall
Skinny Ties Revenue iPhone ↑ 377.6% ↑ 42.4%
Conversion iPhone ↑ 71.9% ↑ 13.6%
Bounce Rate ↓ 23.2%
Visit Duration ↑ 44.6%
Table 2: Other stores’ increases with the institution of responsive sites
SOURCE: Brad Frost, “Using Atomic Design to Create Responsive Interfaces” – UXIM 2014, April 2014
Company Aspect Mobile Tablet
HOMAGE t-shirts Conversion Rate ↑ 81.96% ↑ 32.7%
Revenue ↑ 359.5% ↑ 178.8%
Table 3: Other stores’ increases with the institution of responsive sites
SOURCE: Brad Frost, “Using Atomic Design to Create Responsive Interfaces” – UXIM 2014, April 2014

And it’s not only direct ecommerce that can benefit from a more usable mobile or responsive experience: According to agency Domain7[1], when Regent College in Vancouver, Canada went responsive with their site, they saw:

  • A 99% increase in unique visitors
  • 77% increase in page views
  • 63% increase in online applications

Other sites that went responsive saw similar increases in engagement[2]: Time Magazine saw a 23% increase in page views and a 7.5% increase in time spent on the site, with mobile bounce rate dropping by 26%. Think Tank Photo saw a Black Friday – Cyber Monday revenue increase of 188% as well as a 224% increase in mobile page views. And Maxatec saw their task completion time drop in half as well as a 12% conversation rate increase.

These aren’t slight lifts in engagement – these are increases worthy of VP-level promotions. In all of these cases, the fundamental shopping process wasn’t altered, it was just made usable to a generation of users who are mobile-focused in their habits and decisions. They aren’t alone.

All of your users are mobile (at least potentially)

According to Pew Research, 33% of Americans use mobile as the sole or preferred web access point[3], meaning If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, “it simply doesn’t exist for these people,” said Karen McGrane. Even those who exhibit device-swapping behavior (starting something on one device and picking it up again on another) are less likely to purchase if they have an interrupted experience. That is the key element: immediate purchase satisfaction without having to “visit our desktop site”. If it can be done on the desktop, in nearly all cases it should also be available to mobile (and tablet) users.

That isn’t to say it needs to be an identical experience. In many ways, the process can (and should) be streamlined for the mobile crowd. Amazon does a great job of removing the clutter from their desktop shopping experience – reviews, related items, deeper product descriptions are all relegated to auxiliary screens accessed when the user wants them, in an effort to create a more focused – and faster loading – shopping experience[4].

The sites you create don’t need to be necessarily responsive – although with the numerous screen sizes out there, it makes a lot of sense. It DOES need to be available and usable to any audience who arrives with the intent of completing some act, be it buying a diamond, registering for emails or using your service. As seen in the examples above, making these changes may result in your own $300K or even $300M button experience.

Related Reading

Some great articles to find out how well-designed mobile experiences can really improve the overall experience for users and add to the bottom line for companies:

  1. Luke W – “Data Monday: Impact of Responsive Designs”:
  2. – “14 brands that increased conversion rates via Responsive Design”:
  3. Brad Frost – “Responsive Design to the Rescue: How HOMAGE Grew Mobile Revenue by 258%”:


  1. – “4 Responsive Design Success Stories (With Results to Prove It):
  3. Pew Research Internet Project:
  4. Of course, if it can be completely removed or sidelined on the mobile site, it should be reviewed for the same action on ALL versions of the shopping experience.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply