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The Ultimate Guide to Mobile Commerce

Introduction

Both e-commerce and m-commerce (i.e., mobile commerce) are terms that relate to the buying and selling of goods and services via the internet. While they both share the quality of moving shopping from a physical to an online experience, there are huge differences that have become heightened in recent years by the spread and prevalence of both smartphones and internet access. 

E-commerce, or electronic commerce, is the phrase used for shopping that is done over the internet. This phrase was coined before the ubiquity of smartphones when people conducted their business on desktop or laptop computers.

When e-commerce is discussed in reference to statistics and business practices, it most often includes m-commerce. However, consumer trends towards m-commerce are so strong that it’s worth separating the two for an in-depth discussion. 

The sections below detail the importance of prioritizing m-commerce. We’ll consider how shoppers use their mobile devices, best practices for both the user experience and the back-end website infrastructure. We’ll also discuss the inherent problems that m-commerce poses for online retailers, what to do about them, and how to prime your business for mobile success. 

As you navigate through The Ultimate Guide to M-Commerce, feel free to jump to the sections that pertain most to your business. 

  1. M-Commerce Statistics Worth Noting
  2. M-Commerce in 2020 and Beyond
    1. The Here and Now
    2. Science Fiction or Near Future?
  3. Consumer Behavior as It Relates to M-Commerce
    1. Omnichannel Shopping
    2. Value Comparisons
  4. Mobile Website Optimization: Part A – The User Experience
    1. Load Time
    2. Intelligent Site Search
    3. Hello, Chatbot
    4. Augmented Reality
    5. Mobile UX Design
    6. Checkout
  5. Mobile Website Optimization: Part B – Behind the Scenes
    1. Load Time
    2. Intelligent Site Search – Product Crawl (Filtering)
    3. Tracking – Google Tag Manager
    4. Compress Code
  6. Problems Inherent With M-Commerce and What to Do About Them
    1. Relevance
    2. Cart Abandonment
    3. Variability Among Devices
  7. Advertise Smart
    1. Google’s Local Inventory Ads
    2. The Power of Social Media
  8. Conclusion

1. M-Commerce Statistics Worth Noting

  • By 2021, mobile commerce is projected to generate 72.9% of all e-commerce sales worldwide. This is up from 58.9% in 2017.
  • Global m-commerce sales through both web browsers and mobile apps will top $3.56 trillion in retail sales by 2021. This represents a tripling of revenue in just 4 years (mobile retail sales in 2016 were just under $1 trillion). Growth is expected to continue at this rate for at least the next five years.
  • While the quantity of m-commerce sales exceeds e-commerce transactions, the Average Order Value of sales made via desktop computers is still significantly greater. However, the gap is closing. In 2019, the AOV for purchases made on desktops was approximately $130 while mobile AOVs were significantly lower at $80.

2. M-Commerce in 2020 and Beyond

The Here and Now

There are five major characteristics that make mobile commerce so remarkable for both shoppers and retailers:

  1. Mobility – Smartphones are portable, which means that mobile users can make purchases anywhere they can access the internet.
  2. Reachability – The global prevalence of smartphones and internet access is mind-boggling and increasing every day. Retailers can reach shoppers virtually everywhere on the planet and hugely broaden their audience as compared to traditional e-commerce.
  3. Convenience – Mobile commerce transactions are not dependent on a comfortable and convenient place to conduct business. M-commerce can be done on the move with just a few taps on a phone. Conversely, E-commerce transactions require a computer or laptop set-up and the location/time with which to use those devices.
  4. Location – Apps that track and identify user locations allow retailers to provide location-specific content and personalized offers. Through the help of Wi-Fi and GPS, these recommendations can be much more relevant than the offers provided by retailers that rely on IP address information gathered in an e-commerce transaction.
  5. Security – While this used to be a major stumbling block for mobile transactions, the prevalence and innovation of security features on mobile devices have grown exponentially in recent years. Multifactor and biometric authentication make mobile devices incredibly secure. Consumers have noticed and feel increasingly safer using their mobile devices for purchases.

We are only just beginning to figure out how to maximize the potential of mobile commerce for both shoppers and retailers. 

Science Fiction or Near Future?

Ideas that were once relegated to science fiction are becoming closer to reality every day. Here are a few that are actually within reach in the near future. And you thought being an online retailer was complicated in 2020! 

  • Mobile image recognition – Shoppers can already search for products with image recognition technology on their smartphones on some sites. Imagine this expanding more broadly: pointing a mobile camera at a product or clicking on a photo and being directed to the product page. 
  • Pinpoint shipping – Rather than delivering a product to a specific location or address, deliveries will be made to an individual person at their expected location at a certain time

The potential and sheer breadth of the innovation possible in m-commerce is astounding. If you have a seemingly far-fetched idea that could put your brand on the map – now is the time!

3. Consumer Behavior as It Relates to M-Commerce

Our reliance on mobile devices knows no bounds.With our phones practically glued to our hands, it’s unsurprising that our use of these powerful, little devices will affect how we shop.

Omnichannel Shopping

Shoppers are opting for a multi-screen approach when it comes to making purchases. According to data from Google, 85% of shoppers start their purchasing journeys on one device and migrate to another. It can start with a browser search on a tablet, continue with a personalized (and targeted) Instagram Ad seen from a smartphone, and end with a purchase from their laptop later that day. This is called omnichannel and in order for it to be successful, each interaction the shopper has with the brand should seamlessly flow into the next. While the user enjoys a smooth experience, it’s a monumental endeavor for the retailer to maintain and correlate data from all channels. However, it’s crucial for retailers to make the effort. Shoppers use mobile devices as an intermediary touchpoint (neither the first nor the last) in 58% of multi-device purchases

Value Comparisons

The evolution of value comparison shopping is nowhere more apparent than in mobile commerce. We’ve come a long way to bartering for goods or haggling in a marketplace. Today, mobile shoppers compare prices, shipping costs, return policies, and other relevant product information from dozens of retailers in order to find the best value combination for their particular situation. In order to stay relevant, retailers – just like their customers – must remain constantly aware of competitor pricing

4. Mobile Website Optimization: Part A – The User Experience

As a retailer, you have put in a tremendous amount of effort to reach potential customers. Your shopper may have found you via an omnichannel journey and completed their value comparisons. Good news! They’ve chosen your product! They’re using their smartphone to access your online store and are ready to make a purchase. Here’s how not to drop the ball when converting mobile traffic. 

Load Times: Part A – The User Experience

Does your mobile storefront load in under 3 seconds, in virtually every circumstance? If so, pat yourself on the back; you can skip this section. However, if you’re like most online retailers, pay attention.

Most marketing executives place A/B testing and evolving their ad targeting at the top of their to-do lists (and we agree that these items are extremely important.) However, only 3% of executives opt to prioritize faster load times. 

It’s time to reexamine these priorities. 70% of shoppers say that the speed with which a website loads determines their likelihood to make a purchase. This is especially relevant for users on mobile devices – 45% of consumers ages 18 to 24 will wait 4-6 seconds for a page to load on their computers while only 26% of this age group will wait that long on a smartphone. 

If you want your online store to be poised to take advantage of the mobile commerce revolution, your load times will need to be lightning fast. Spend the effort and money to optimize your load times and not only will your conversion rate increase, but you’ll also spend considerably less on paid ad marketing and improve your placement in organic searches (as your search rankings will increase).

Intelligent Site Search: Part A – The User Experience

The fact is that mobile screens are smaller than desktop or laptop screens. It’s difficult enough to scroll and search through products on a large device but on a 5-inch mobile screen, something has to give. Enter intelligent site search. Shoppers often use the search functionality within a retailer’s website while on their mobile devices. 

If shoppers can’t find the product that’s relevant to them, they’ll ultimately go elsewhere, and worse, they will draw false conclusions about the online store’s offerings. These misunderstandings can be devastating; leading not only to cart abandonments for this particular purchase but also affecting shoppers’ “knowledge” of that online store, often incorrectly. These problems are avoidable with good, internal, search functionality. 

‘Natural language processing’ (or NLP) is currently on the frontlines of search functionality optimization and development. Shoppers don’t type in the exact phrasing of specific products. For example, an online retailer’s catalog may contain a “Platinum Spring 15 Plus Pillowtop Mattress Set”. But the shopper types, “Soft queen mattress” into the search bar. It’s a tall order for a computer to turn the query, “Soft queen mattress” into a variety of products that are relevant to the shopper, as matched from that specific online retailer’s catalog. 

Lucky for us, NLP search does exist – it’s the junction of machine learning, statistics, and linguistics – and your online storefront should incorporate their use and be aware of the gains that NLP technology is making over time. 

Hello, Chatbot

A smartphone is first and foremost a device for communication. Millennials spend 48 minutes per day simply texting. It’s no wonder that chatbots are seeing a huge rise in popularity. If your mobile storefront doesn’t have a Chatbot yet, consider adding one. 

Chatbots are software that can engage in human-like conversation and assist shoppers with queries such as product searches, answering questions, or handling complaints. They feature instant results and add a “personal touch” to mobile storefronts. 

As with search engines, NLP is extremely important for chatbots. Awkward or unnatural responses can be a major turn-off for potential customers. 

Augmented Reality

Mobile shoppers are also beginning to take advantage of Augmented Reality (AR) to virtually try products. They like this option so much that 71% report they would shop at an online retailer more often if AR was offered and 40% would be willing to pay more for a product if they could experience it through augmented reality first. 

Shoppers can view furniture and other household items in the context of their own homes, virtually try on clothing, test make-up – the possibilities are endless. The more positive interactions that shoppers have with your brand, including AR, the more likely they’ll be to complete their purchases.

Mobile UX Design

One of the most prevalent (and easiest to fix!) problems with m-commerce is that most designers and marketing executives are working from desktop computers, while shoppers are making purchases from mobile devices. Hopefully, we’ve successfully conveyed just how different the mobile shopping experience is from the desktop experience and why it can’t be lumped in with e-commerce. 

Online retailers need to design a sleek and effortless mobile user experience for their shoppers. We can’t say this loudly enough – optimize the design of your website for mobile devices. For a detailed design deep-dive, download our Mobile UX Guide. Then follow up with a “Responsive Website Design Checker.” This will show you what your website looks like on different devices with different orientations. There’s a myriad of free and inexpensive options available, so take advantage of them. 

Checkout

Flawless, easy checkout navigation, all on one screen, is the way to go. If you must utilize several screens, make sure to include a progress bar. Shoppers want to know where they are in their journeys. 

DO NOT make shoppers create an account! We realize that account holders are more likely to shop with you again. But shoppers didn’t come to your storefront to generously hand over their personal details. They came to buy something. Give them what they want and time your requests wisely. Give mobile users the option to sign in as a returning customer or check out as a guest. 

After the user has completed their purchase, you can let them know their purchase has been successful and ask if they want to receive discounts and promotions by creating an account – all that’s needed now is for them to provide a password. 

You’ve managed to load your website quickly, matched your catalogue offering with a shopper’s search query, provided that shopper with a value-driven option, made the checkout process easy enough to entice them to provide all of the necessary information… now for the final hurdle – payment. 

Just like shoppers want options for how to shop, they want options for how to pay. Offer flexible payment solutions that include a mobile-optimized buy-now-pay-later option. Splitit is an industry leader, allowing online retailers to incorporate this option at checkout with minimal additional information needed from the shopper and no need to apply for additional credit. The shopper chooses the duration (and therefore the amount) of monthly payments. That’s it. 

5. Mobile Website Optimization: Part B – Behind the Scenes

Load Times: Part B – Behind the Scenes

We’ve already covered how users feel about load times. If they have to wait even a few milliseconds too long, they’re on to the next website. What practical steps can online retailers take to decrease their load times? Consider what content delivery system is best for your website. This will depend on, unsurprisingly, the content of your online store. A website with thousands of offerings will have different delivery needs than a website with 10 offerings that are best viewed in 360-degree environments. Your specific store and site complexity will determine whether a Content Delivery Network or HTML Local Storage solution is best for your particular use case. 

You should also check the speed of your competitors’ websites. Diligently and often measure the competition in relation to your online store. If you’re consistently falling behind, it may be worth it to work with a company that offers mobile acceleration solutions. If you choose to use their services, make sure they can deliver measurable results in page load time improvement. 

Intelligent Site Search: Part B – Behind the Scenes

We know what users want when searching for products on their mobile devices – they want to enter in colloquial phrases that are meaningful to them and be rewarded with matching entries from an online retailer’s catalog. This leaves online retailers walking a very narrow tightrope. 

One the one side, retailers need to perfectly anticipate the needs of the shopper and serve the most relevant content based on their current place in their buying cycle. For example, are they still in awareness mode (what do you offer and why should they buy from you?) or are they ready to take action (is this product the best fit and how do they get the most out of their experience?)? 

On the other hand, retailers don’t want to serve too much information or too many products. Doing so risks diluting the experience for the shopper – giving them irrelevant choices that they don’t need nor want. It also can drastically increase load times – which we know is the Achilles Heel of Mobile Commerce. 

Behind the scenes search result filtering is of the utmost importance. This isn’t a set-it and forget-it practice. Online retailers should constantly be asking; how much is enough and are the search results relevant to my shopper? 

Finally, ensure that your back-end product crawl is as intelligent as your front-facing NLP. Especially if you have a large catalog, you don’t want to search all of your offerings over and over again as this will dramatically increase the time it takes to serve the shopper their results. 

For example, if a user searches for “Black mini dress 8” your catalog should be combed for dresses. Then only that subset of products is combed for the color black. That smaller subset of black dresses is then combed for length and finally that smaller subset for availability in size 8. 

Your product crawl should also NEVER provide the user with a message such as, “Sorry, nothing matched your search.” The closest matches to their query should be served instead. 

Tracking – Organize Your Data Collection

We know how important customer data is to your business. It informs your marketing strategies and enables you to provide personalized and relevant offers to your shoppers. But what does this data cost in terms of site performance? Collecting information on general analytics, user behavior, conversions, etc can greatly slow down your site. 

Consider a tag management system, like Google Tag Manager to condense all of your tags into a single JavaScript request. If the request can be made asynchronously (independent of response outcome while the site loads), so much the better. 

Compress Code

Your website contains a lot of information. Removing excess, old or poorly written code can increase your site’s performance and increase your load times. Consider “minifying” your code or using whitespace control measures to slim down your site even further. 

6. Problems Inherent With M-Commerce and What to Do About Them

Space and Relevance

Mobile screens are small. Space is at a premium and every pixel counts. While we understand the need to convey information to your shopper, it’s all too easy for mobile screens to appear cluttered, messy and hard to read. Eliminate every unnecessary element from your page – both words and images. Keep your mobile site sleek with large images and short, to-the-point headlines and CTAs. 

Cart Abandonment

The smaller the screen, the higher the cart abandonment rate. Shoppers fail to complete purchases on mobile devices 86% of the time compared to 80% on tablets and 73% on desktops. However, as mobile devices are often a stopover on the purchasing journey – this isn’t always as bad as it may seem. 

Every interaction you have with a shopper provides you with an opportunity to delight and impress them. The more positive interactions you collect, the more likely you are to cultivate a lifetime, loyal customer. If your mobile website is frictionless, relevant and a pleasure to use, your shopper is much more likely to continue their purchase journey with your brand on their tablet later on then start an entirely new journey. 

Variability Among Devices

Mobile devices certainly don’t fall into a one-size-fits-all bucket. An iPhone XR is different from a Samsung Galaxy A10E which is different from a Google Pixel 4. It seems like every time a new mobile device is unveiled, it’s done with the intention of keeping mobile developers on their toes. 

It’s a good thing that code has evolved with our rate of introducing new devices – it’s called responsive design. It’s when a site’s layout and design changes in response to the size of the user’s device, its capabilities and orientation (vertical or horizontal). It’s not enough for your online store to work flawlessly on desktops, tablets and mobile devices. It has to work on ALL variations of these devices. Use an emulator tool (such as mobiletest.me) to ensure that your site looks its best across the board. 

7. Advertise Smart

Go Local

Mobile users are well, mobile. They’re searching for products and shopping from wherever they happen to be at the moment. Make sure that shoppers can find you. Do you have a physical storefront? If so, make sure you are listed with Google, Bing, Yelp, Yahoo Local, TripAdvisor and other relevant local directories. Do other physical stores carry your brand? Consider adding Google’s Local Inventory Ads to your marketing budget. These ads showcase your products and store information to nearby shoppers when they perform a browser search. Does your product match a shopper’s needs as well as (or better) than a local offering? Here’s where Paid Ads can really pay off. In short, your market share can be greatly increased if shoppers can find your products when they are “out and about,” searching for a specific item. 

The Power of Social Media

Social media is arguably becoming the dominant source of content consumption and product discovery for today’s shoppers. As of 2020, half the world’s population, or 3.8 billion people are on at least one social media platform with the average person spending 2.4 hours per day on this platform. That’s a lot of people, spending a lot of time on Social Media! In 2019, 99% of users accessed Social Media via their mobile devices. Are you paying attention yet? 

Social Media by the numbers

Facebook

  • The average Facebook user has clicked on 12 ads in the past 30 days (Facebook has 2.5 billion monthly users, 79% of which access Facebook only via their mobile device).
  • 58% of US shoppers say they’ve become more interested in a brand after seeing it in Facebook Stories (300 million people use FB Stories every day).
  • 64% of people would rather use Facebook messenger rather than phone or email to communicate with a business, while as of 2018, 58% of people already used Facebook messenger at some point during their purchase journeys. 

YouTube

  • YouTube is the world’s 2nd most visited website, losing the top spot only to Google. It has 2 billion users every month (and these are only the folks that are logged in!).
  • 70% of YouTube users access the platform via their mobile devices.
  • When viewers watch YouTube videos related to products they’re interested in purchasing, 80% do so at the beginning of their purchase journeys. 

Instagram

  • 92% of Instagram’s 1 billion monthly users say they’ve followed a brand, clicked on their website, or made a purchase after seeing a product/service on Instagram.
  • 200 million Instagram users visit at least 1 business profile daily and 130 million tap on shopping posts at least once a month.
  • 62% of people say they’ve become more interested in a brand or product after seeing it in Stories while 81% of people use Instagram to help research products and services.

Snapchat

Source: HootSuite

Mobile commerce shoppers are effortlessly perusing social media, searching for items to purchase, reading reviews and recommendations from friends and clicking an appealing image or offer when a relevant, personally targeted ad appears. 84% of people will buy from a brand they follow on Social rather than a competitor. 

Online retailers have an immense opportunity to get their products in front of a large, captive, mobile audience. The ones that engage in smart, targeted, personally relevant content will reap the greatest benefits. 

8. Conclusion 

Mobile commerce has decidedly eclipsed all other forms of e-commerce in both size and scope. With a swish of their thumbs, shoppers are telling online retailers where, how and what they want their shopping experiences to be. Brands can either lead, adapt or get out of the way. 

If you intend to play a part in the mobile reformation, you’ll need to optimize your storefront for mobile devices. Speed, design, search functionality and the tools to engage and relate to shoppers all play a role. 

Retailers will need to understand and keep up with how people use their mobile devices and how they can best match their products to potential mobile shopping needs. Product relevance, frictionless user experience and seamless, omnichannel purchase journeys are all key to profitable and sustainable growth in the age of mobile commerce. 

To improve your online store’s mobile compatibility, especially the checkout options, contact Splitit for a detailed analysis of how adding a Buy-Now-Pay-Later option can be the right decision for your mobile storefront. 

Christopher Fox (Content Contributor), August 12, 2020 Share this article

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