Have you ever tried to buy something from the internet on your phone? At this point in online retail development, you’ll get a mixed bag of beautifully simple buying experiences and really bad ones. Many online store owners have yet to consider what it’s like to buy from their stores using a mobile device.

Last year, mobile ecommerce represented nearly a third of all US ecommerce sales. Experts predict that number will only rise. At a time when mobile represents more than half of all media consumption, online stores simply must be optimized for the mobile web.

But... what exactly does mobile-optimized mean? A mobile-optimized store focuses on usability — making the shopping experience as practical and painless as possible when your customers are trying to buy on a small screen. Here are the four key qualities that make your store friendly for mobile shoppers.

1. Viewability

Online stores need readable content and viewable pictures to convert sales. A store that’s viewable on a desktop needs to be equally viewable on a mobile device.

The biggest offender here is having text that’s too small to easily read. When you force people to zoom in on their phones, you run into other interesting problems — like unintentionally touching links and other page elements. It’s hard to find the right size for the page. Worse yet, pictures can easily get distorted when viewed on a phone.

Viewability is about more than just solid marketing and product representation. It’s also about practicality when your customer wants to interact with your site. To make sure customers can view your content:

2. Interactivity

If you’ve ever gotten frustrated trying to touch a tiny link or button on a mobile website, you’re in good company. This was one of the most glaring problems with websites and online stores when people first started accessing the web from mobile devices.

Interactivity becomes a major factor in whether or not your customer can navigate from browsing products to buying them. A few ways you can optimize for a more interactive (and less frustrating) customer experience include:

3. Responsiveness

Many of the problems that affect both viewability and interactivity can be fixed by responsive design.

A website looks super different depending on whether you’re viewing it on your computer, tablet, or phone. With each device, the real estate your store occupies on the screen shrinks, which means you can only show a certain amount of information.

For years, people created websites meant for desktop viewing. Responsive design bridges the gap between desktop and mobile viewing, using “flexible” code that automatically adjusts content to fit the size of the screen. The web’s biggest stores, blogs, and other sites are all built responsively, giving them a huge advantage on smaller screens.

Your shopping cart software or content management system should come with built-in responsive templates. If you’re using a custom design, you can work with an experienced designer to ensure your website is responsive.

4. Timeliness

If 47% of consumers say they expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or less, how do you think they’ll react to even longer wait times? Yep, they’ll abandon the page, leaving whatever’s in their cart to gather dust.

Latency is a detriment to your store that can easily lose customers. Mobile devices usually can’t crunch as much data as desktops, so if your page is too big, it’s gonna take a long time to load.

Compress files, update programs, and do everything you can do to make sure your design doesn’t pack too heavy of a punch in the data department.

Small Screen, Big Opportunity

Mobile commerce represents a huge opportunity for online stores everywhere. If you prepare your business for user-friendly mobile commerce, you’ll be ready to capitalize on that opportunity when mobile sales inevitably overtake desktop sales.

Take some time to test your store on mobile, and invite others to do the same. Note where people get tripped up in the buying process and put an actionable plan in place to smooth out the rough spots for mobile customers.

Cristina Talucci is the Marketing Project Manager for 3dcart. 3dcart is the all-in-one e-commerce solution for retailers to build, promote and grow their online stores. Their services include the best technical support in the industry and more supported payment gateways than any other e-commerce solution.