The mobile market is one of the fastest growing opportunities for retailers looking to drive sales and gain a competitive advantage. People are now spending more time on mobile devices than they are watching TV or on a desktop computer. Goldman Sachs predicts that global ecommerce sales made via mobile devices will top $638 billion by 2018. That’s roughly equal to all global ecommerce sales in 2013. Total online spending in the U.S. grew 14 percent in 2013, compared to single digit total retail spending according to comScore.

The key to dominating the mobile retail market is having a website optimized for the mobile experience. Almost two-thirds of people prefer to shop on mobile optimized websites over mobile apps. Mobile optimized websites are essential for ecommerce retailers. Black Friday sales on these optimized mobile sites were up 187 percent in 2013 compared to 2012.

But retailers in general aren’t taking advantage of this massive market shift toward mobile optimized websites. In fact, according to Econsultancy, more than 45 percent of businesses don’t have a mobile site or app at all.

Because retailers are not offering mobile experiences that appeal to potential consumers in terms of both design and content, they’re losing out on potential customers. The keys to creating mobile offerings that convert searchers and browsers into consumers are creating a design that is based off the abilities and limits of mobile devices and offering content and features that mobile users specifically demand and desire prior to purchase.

Responsive Design: Made for Mobile

The key for retailers looking to improve their mobile sales is to use responsive design and include features that mobile users demand. Responsive designs are recommended by search engines because they adapt to any size screen, giving users an optimal experience if they are on their smartphone or desktop. According to Google, 67 percent of users say they are more likely to make a purchase from a mobile friendly website while on the go.

The layout of a responsive design website is key for retailers looking to create mobile sales conversions. First, because mobile users use hands and styluses instead of a mouse, links should be larger and easier to click. Users will be less likely to convert and make purchases if they are required to zoom in to click. Second, users demand easy to use interfaces and designs, so having large images and text size should be of the upmost importance. Some possible design options include using images as links instead of text, creating a drop down menu with easy access to popular features and never using pop-up links because of the complication they cause for mobile users. Mobile shoppers want the easiest potential path to go from browsing to buying and any roadblock, be it hard to click links, small text or complicated to fill out forms, will cause a loss in sales.

Mobile-Friendly Features Attract Consumers

The features prominently placed on a responsive design website can also make a big difference in a user’s experience and satisfaction with a retailer.

Search function: Retailers should include a search function above the scroll line. This will help consumers move from one product to another easily without having to use several subdirectories. Search results should be displayed using images, large text that is easy to read and links that are simple to use.

Location finder and contact information: Many mobile shoppers use a retailer’s mobile site to find products they want and then go to a physical location to see the product in person. Because of this, retailers should include a location finder that points to the nearest physical location. One option is for retailers to have users type in a zip code and have that action automatically open and populate the Google map app. At the same time, contact information for those local locations should be prominently displayed for people who wish to call or email about a product instead of seeing it in person.

Easy product customization: For many retailers, such as those in apparel, product customization is a must for consumers. Being able to see combinations, options, sizing, pricing and delivery options on a mobile device can help push users to make a purchase. Gap allows mobile users to mix and match different clothing options on their mobile device, allowing people to visualize how new purchases might look with current mainstays, and then purchase those items as a group.

Ratings and reviews: Retailers should make reviews of products easy to find and read on mobile web offerings because consumers feel more comfortable buying a product that has gotten positive reviews from other consumers. Search Engine Watch reports that 85 percent of consumers read reviews for local businesses. Dimensional Research reports that 90 percent of consumers say that positive online reviews had a direct impact on their buying decision.

To capitalize on the massive and growing mobile ecommerce market, retailers should create an optimized mobile website that is designed to draw in shoppers and convert them into buyers. By using responsive design that is easy to use on small screens and features that deliver what mobile users desire, retailers have the ability to connect with mobile users and increase sales.

By Jason Squardo, executive vice president of optimization at ZOG Digital