What is mobile optimization, and why should you care?

Apr 10 2018 | PayPal editorial staff

Not that long ago it made sense for ecommerce businesses to focus on websites built with desktop machines in mind.
After all, that’s how their customers were accessing their stores. But that’s changed over the past few years. More recently, best practices have dictated an omni-channel development approach that takes both mobile and desktop into consideration, and today we’re seeing an even greater shift toward mobile. As mobile devices continue to grow in popularity, it’s more important than ever to ensure your business’s website is easy to use on phones and tablets. That’s where mobile optimization comes in.

The importance of optimizing.
Put simply, mobile optimization is just what it sounds like: optimizing your website so customers can easily browse, select, and buy your products from the device of their choice, and it isn’t just a nice thing to do for your customers. It’s also a smart business move. Sixty-eight percent of Americans own smartphones,1 and in 2015, mobile commerce sales rose 38.7% compared to the previous year.2

If that isn’t enough to convince you, perhaps this is: On April 21st, 2015, Google changed the way it ranks websites in searches from mobile devices. The change boiled down to one factor: how well your site is optimized for mobile viewers. If your site isn’t optimized, it could mean that you now rank lower in mobile searches. Google is interested in its users’ overall experience, and you should be too.

If your customers are happy with their mobile shopping experiences, then they’ll be more likely to come back again in the future.

How to optimize your site.
From a development standpoint, there are three ways to create a site that will work on mobile devices:

1. Responsive web design.
Probably the simplest approach, this method produces ONE website (that is, one URL, one set of HTML, etc.) that works no matter what device or size screen it’s viewed on. Responsive web design leverages things like fluid grid layouts for your pages, flexible images that resize, and media queries that trigger different CSS style rules. Done right, the end result is one site that will automatically flow and scale to adjust to the device it’s viewed on.

2. Dynamic serving.
This takes the above one step further by actually serving up TWO sets of code (essentially, two different websites) depending on the viewing device, for an even more targeted experience for mobile shoppers. Your domain name (URL) stays the same.

3. Mobile website.
Mobile sites use a completely different domain name (and HTML, etc.) for mobile shoppers. If you’ve ever seen a URL like “m.domain.com,” you’re on a mobile site. An app can easily be created to launch it.

Mobile design.
No matter which method is used, there are several “rules” to follow that will result in a better experience for mobile users. Mobile sites should:
  • Require less scrolling, data entry, taps/clicks, and zooming.
  • Feature easy-to-find “Add to cart” and “Checkout” buttons.
  • Support a wide range of devices – iPhones, Android phones, various tablets, etc.
  • Use buttons that are big enough to tap easily on a small touchscreen.
  • Keep image use to a minimum, because images increase the time it takes for a page to load.
  • Use a simple payment process that requires less data entry; fewer checkout steps can mean fewer abandoned carts.
  • Implement strong mobile security.
  • Offer universal sign-in between PCs and wireless devices to seamlessly integrate both shopping methods.
Finally, your site should ask for as little new information as possible from existing customers. They should be able to check out with just their username and password – don’t ask them to re-enter their credit card, shipping, and billing information. PayPal’s payment processing, for example, does exactly that: customers only need to log in to their PayPal accounts to complete a purchase with just a few taps. They even have the option to stay logged, so they can speed through checkout on subsequent visits. That’s just one way we keep mobile in mind.

Round out the mobile commerce experience with help from PayPal.
We get it: Mobile shoppers are vital to your business. That’s why our checkout products are mobile-optimized. All versions – Express Checkout, PayPal Payments Standard, and PayPal Payments Pro – will detect a shopper’s device and automatically optimize the payment experience for them. Because the solutions are optimized for mobile devices, your customers won’t waste time waiting for pages to load or entering their personal information on pint-sized screens. Using PayPal helps puts them on the fast track to getting what they came for.

In fact, a January 2015 study of 1,300 participants, done by SurveyMonkey, found that consumers are most likely to use PayPal as their mobile payment service. It also showed that PayPal has the highest mobile payment awareness and consideration in the industry.3

The takeaway: Offering PayPal on your mobile site is a must-have for capturing sales from on-the-go shoppers.

Because our functionally is already baked in, there are no additional fees or charges. Plus, our checkout products are easy for you to set up, and they deliver a seamless, secure payment experience for your customers – whether they choose to pay with PayPal or a credit card.

We understand the importance of making your checkout process intuitive for all customers, including those on mobile devices, and we have the offerings to help make it possible. Visit paypal.com/business for more information about our products, and check out the PayPal Demo Portal to see exactly what the payment experience looks like on a mobile device.

The contents of this site are provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent, professional accounting, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.

1 Pew Research Center, “Technology Device Ownership: 2015,” October 2015.
2 Internet Retailer, “Mobile commerce is now 30% of all U.S. e-commerce,” August 2015.
3 SurveyMonkey, “Brand Pulse: PayPal & the Mobile Wallet Industry,” January 2015.

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Frequently asked questions.

There are two ways to connect to the PayPal Security Key via a mobile phone:

1. Log in to PayPal.com via your mobile phone

Here's how to get the security code sent to your phone:
  • When you log in, click the Send SMS button and check your mobile phone for the text message with a 6-digit security code. You'll usually receive a text message response in less than a minute, depending on your carrier service.
  • If you have multiple phone numbers on your account, be sure your mobile phone has been set as the primary phone number. If SMS is not available, we can also call your primary phone number if you’d like to listen for your 6-digit security code.
  • Make sure that your primary mobile phone number is enabled before you enable the Security Key, or else you won’t be able to log in with the Security Key. Note: you can still log in via a different method (for example, by answering your account security questions).
There is no fee to use the PayPal Security Key, however your standard mobile rates apply when you receive a security code by SMS or by phone. Check with your mobile provider for details.

2. Download and launch the PayPal app

If you’re using the PayPal app on your mobile phone instead of logging in through our website on your phone:
  • Log in to your account with your email and password, as you normally do, and wait for a PayPal Security Key SMS that will contain your OTP. Enter your pin to log in.
  • The PayPal app allows you to log in to you account using your iOS/Android device’s fingerprint reader. Check the app settings to set up this feature.
If you requested a code but did not receive one, first ensure your device has proper reception. Note that if you are in an area without a phone signal or with a period of high network traffic, the token might not arrive in a timely manner. You can request another code by tapping Send SMS again.
When you add a mobile phone number, you can also confirm your mobile phone. Here’s how: 
  1. Go to your ProfileIcon Settings.
  2. Click Update next to "Phone."
  3. Click Update next to your mobile number.
  4. Click confirm your number. We'll send you a text message with a confirmation code. Stay logged in and don’t exit from the window.
  5. Enter the confirmation code into the entry space provided on the screen to confirm your mobile.
  6. Click Validate.
If the confirmation of your mobile is successful, we will send you another text message to confirm that your mobile is now linked to your account.
In-Context Checkout represents a streamlined online payment option. The simplified design takes buyers through online payment in as few as one or two clicks, without leaving your website. The following questions are commonly asked about In-Context Checkout.

Are additional fees or permissions required?
No. For more information, see the Checkout integration guide.

How do I integrate this option for my customers?
Ensure that customers are using the basic Checkout integration. To enable the option, follow the instructions outlined within the Checkout integration guide.

Can I use the Checkout variables and values?
Here's a list of unsupported parameters.

Are all browsers compatible?
Here's information about browsers' compatibility.
  • Old browsers will default to the full-page checkout experience.

Will the In-Context Checkout window appear on mobile or tablet devices?
No. Smartphones and tablets display an optimized full-page checkout window.

Is this option supported in every language?
Here's information about the languages currently supported.

Why are customers having different experiences after integrating this option?
Each merchant’s eligible customers will receive the new checkout experience. Customers who aren't eligible will be redirected to the full-page PayPal checkout experience.

Is there an Opt-In/Opt-Out option?
PayPal supports In-Context checkout integration for all merchants, but won't provide this option. However, merchants can build their own Opt-In/Opt-Out functionality.

Are Reference Transactions, Recurring Payments, Adaptive Payments and Digital Goods supported?
Currently, Reference Transactions are available to US and UK merchants only. Recurring Payments, Adaptive Payments and Digital Goods aren't presently supported.

If I adopt the In-Context Checkout option will I have to integrate again when new features are available?
No, once integrated you'll automatically be given the new features.

Can buyers use a PayPal debit card as a funding source?
Buyers can use their PayPal debit card to initiate transactions. However, they'll be redirected to the full-page PayPal checkout experience.

Will pop-up blockers prevent the In-Context Checkout window from rendering?
No, pop-up blockers won't prevent the In-Context Checkout window from being displayed.
  • For pages with multiple submission buttons, ensure that the JavaScript is loaded using onclick or submit, not onload.

Will the In-Context Checkout window lose focus behind another window?
No, the checkout window remains active unless the consumer minimizes the window. If that occurs, click on the window to reactivate it.
  • A message similar to the following may appear: "Don’t see the secure PayPal browser? We’ll help you relaunch the window to complete your purchase. Press Continue to proceed."
The PayPal Donate button is a convenient and cost-effective solution for collecting donations online. Follow our step-by-step guide to create a Donate button. Define the donation amounts you want to accept or create an open field for customers to fill in; no programming is required.
When donors click your donate button, they complete their donation on the PayPal site. There are no monthly or set-up fees with donation button transactions. Your organization only pays processing fees when they receive a donation.
Other features:
Customers can choose to automatically give a monthly donation to your organization.  Both the organization and the customer can control the recurring payments in their respective profile settings if they would like to cancel or change the amount.
The Donate button is automatically mobile optimized for easier payments on small devices.