Staples speeds up mobile checkout

Palm Springs, Calif.—Staples (NYSE:SPLS) has set out to solve an old retail problem: How do we make e-commerce checkout easier for customers?

"When a visitor goes online and adds a product to the cart, they are four times as likely to buy it on desktop than on mobile," said Umair Ahmed, product manager, mobile, Staples. Ahmed, a best-in-class award winner for Staples' mobile strategy, presented the company's findings during eTail West's pre-conference mobile and tablet summit on Wednesday. 

Ahmed said Staples customers were abandoning carts on mobile devices for two reasons: focus and friction.

Last holiday season alone, Jumio reported that retailers most likely missed out on up to $8.6 billion in sales in mobile commerce because of outdated mobile checkout experiences.

In a recent Verifone survey, 84 percent of shoppers said they would use a phone to pay for small and moderate purchases. However, many U.S. adults remain unaware of these services and how to use them.

Ahmed explained that the majority of customers buying online at are checking out as a "guest." Like most retailers, Staples penalizes customers without online profiles by having them fill out more customer information during purchases.

"We acquire two times more customers from desktop," said Ahmed. "The customer wants simple end to end and a best-in-class experience. They don't want to fill out an essay before checkout."

So Staples set out to find a way to score more conversions with first-time customers viewing the e-commerce site on mobile platforms. The result was that the retailer reduced the number of fields to fill out at checkout from 21 to five. And out of the five that remained, only two are suggested. The customer simply leaves an email or a name and the system fills in the other information automatically.

Customers viewing from their phones can now check out as a guest in just three clicks, which resulted in a 30 percent rise in engagement on mobile and a 50 percent rise in mobile conversion time.

Because of the new strategy's success, Staples is working on a redesign of checkout for desktop that will include fewer steps for busy customers.

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