Is Mobile Commerce the New E-Commerce?


The word “smartphone” at one point was an appropriate name, but they’re not just phones anymore.

We use them to browse, buy, socialize, get information, send information, kill time, and do business. And, of course, make the occasional call. With 2.6 billion mobile users worldwide and a global e-commerce industry worth $1.915 trillion, these two stats seem to be speeding toward one another on the same track.

That’s why mastering mobile commerce is the logical next step for digital retail.

The Lowdown

Until now, the world of mobile commerce (m-commerce) has been more effective as a search/comparison tool than a point of sales. There are a few reasons for this, including speed and navigation, issues with data use, screen size, and mobile site functionality.

It mostly boils down to user experience, which isn’t a permanent obstacle.

Necessity is Driving the Bus

If there’s one thing that drives technology, it’s traffic.

A study by comScore showed that mobile commerce scooped up 41% of the total US retail browsing time in 2015, but only converted that into 15% of the total retail dollars spent. That ratio is poised to change as mobile prepares to get its functional groove on.

According to Business Insider, mobile sales are expected to rise to 45% of the $632 billion in total e-commerce sales by 2020.

Is that possible? reported that mobile shopping traffic rose from 5.2% in 2010 to over 50% by 2015. A study by Salesforce estimated that mobile phones will account for more than 60% of all digital traffic by the end of 2017. This all seems entirely possible, particularly when you consider that mobile sales grew from 5% to 31% between 2010 and 2015. To put this in terms of phones, this mobile shopping traffic grew as we went from the iPhone 4 in 2010 to the 6 by 2015. Think about those phones in terms of functionality and apps.

So, it certainly seems possible, as long as the numbers we’re seeing hold true.

Users are Ready

According to statista, 63.5 percent of the US population uses a smartphone. At the same time, 78% of the population currently uses a desktop or laptop. Here’s the kicker: 80% of all internet users in the US own a smartphone.

graph of internet user percentages

A January 2017 survey of US internet users ages 18 and older, conducted by Fluent LLC, found that over half of respondents claim to make online purchases via their smartphones more often than on computers or tablets.

But when asked whether they make most purchases through mobile apps or mobile websites, their preferences were almost equally divided: 49% said they primarily used mobile websites, while 51% favored mobile apps.

This is where the two numbers presented earlier (45% and $632 billion) start to really make sense.

The Social Factor

There’s a second opportunity that is starting to unfold: social media.

China has taken the lead in terms of social media commerce, whereas the US and Europe have again focused more on awareness than sales. This, too, is ready to change.

When we think of advocacy and engagement, social media has the potential to move customers far down the buying funnel — which is why the issue of mobile commerce functionality needs to be ironed out.

L2 Inc. reported that social commerce accounts for just 1.5% of US e-commerce orders, focusing efforts mainly on awareness and interest. “Consumers still must head to brick-and-mortar or e-commerce stores to purchase products they discover on social media…. This gap in behavior can be attributed to the gap in seamless payments.”

What About Amazon?

Where do over 50% of all mobile product searches begin? Amazon.

Following the data, it makes sense that purchases on and off the Amazon platform increased over the last year. As mobile phone devices begin to dominate over tablet and PC usage, customers expect consistent messaging and seamless shopping experiences across all devices and channels.

Salesforce cited “decreased friction during checkout” as one of the accelerating factors behind m-commerce growth, which Amazon’s customer-centric membership model is addressing. Quickly.

Content is Still the Moneymaker

With a growing population of less brand-loyal and more bargain-oriented shoppers, brands have to meet consumer standards across devices — or be prepared for customers to move on. Amazon has already proven itself to be the leader in user experience in personalization, data analytics, and omnichannel technology.

Irregularities across any device can be the difference between a lifelong customer and the last consideration the brand ever receives. Of US internet users researching products via mobile devices in 2016, 50% began on Amazon, 34% began on a mobile search engine, and 16% began on a retailer’s mobile site or app.

When considering brand equity, it is pertinent to include content consistency across multiple devices, as well as how that content displays on each device. Consistency is directly related to customer confidence, and on Amazon, confidence is key.

Matters of Attention

As mobile devices continue to be deeply integrated into the shopping experience, it is equally important to consider compelling ways to keep shoppers engaged across devices and channels.

91% of smartphone users turn to their phone for ideas while doing a given task, meaning they’re likely to get interrupted. You need to capture their attention and make it easy for them to convert before something else draws their attention away.

smartphone users turn to their phone

Although a daunting task, the good news is that there’s no shortage of traffic waiting to find your product, even if they don’t know it.

Key Takeaways

Optimizing content for mobile shouldn’t be up for debate. It’ll be the brands that have a fully fleshed out mobile plan of action that stand to gain from the shift in m-commerce, no matter where their customers are looking.