There once was a time when e-commerce was regarded as an entity separate from that of the rest of the internet. The sale of physical goods was seen as a different sphere than that of the ‘recreational’ or ‘informational’ internet, with companies having completely different sets of goals in their interaction with consumers. Today, those distinctions are not so clear.
The world has watched eagerly as the different avenues of online activity have congregated and merged with one another, leaving e-commerce businesses using many of the same strategies and channels as informational websites and content-based business models. Today children carry smartphones and use tablets from elementary school on, and each of those devices is likely connected to the latest trendy social network. The trends are well known. According to ComScore, mobile commerce sales reached a total of $4.7 Billion in Q2 of 2013, which represents a 24% growth year-over-year. The e-commerce leaders of the future are planting seeds in mobile and social now, in hopes that they will grow into a solid foundation for the future, firmly rooted and ready to market to a demographic that grew up on smartphones and tablets.
According to a recent research paper released by ComScore, Q2 of 2013 was the 15th consecutive quarter of eCommerce growth in the US, with 11 of those quarters of growth being well into the double digits. As time has gone on, the different devices that consumers used to browse the internet has grown rapidly. The smart phone industry boomed, and the improved technology provided users with their first convenient mobile viewing opportunity.
It took some time before those users really began to become comfortable utilizing their smartphones to make purchases online. The web was not completely ready for the rapid emergence of the Initial smartphones and the lack of a consistent, seamless experience among e-commerce websites made some users weary of entering sensitive information. For the most part, users still made a bulk of their purchases from their desktop computers. Early adopters that innovated with smartphone-ready user interfaces and apps were able to become pioneers of the mobile e-commerce boom. As time has gone on and user familiarity with smartphones increased, the mobile e-commerce data has blossomed.
The release of tablets, and specifically the iPad played a huge role in the growth of mobile shopping in the US and around the world. According to comScore, 12% of all e-commerce purchases in Q4 of 2012 were placed from a tablet.
The larger screen, highly engaging shopping experiences and ability to easily casually surf through products has made the tablet an integral tool for those that are looking to make purchases online. This is reflected in a number of different studies as well, including a 2011 Google study that showed that among tablet users, 43% spent more time on their tablet than they did their desktop computer. Given the sharp rise in tablet purchases since 2011, one would think that that number has only increased. According to eMarketer, 16.9% of all online purchases will be made on a tablet by 2016.
Given the differences in typical usage of smartphones and tablets, we have seen different marketing methods emerge for each medium. While offering a more engaging and in-depth marketing campaign might make more sense when dealing with tablet users, smartphone users have been shown to have shorter attention spans and often respond more favorably to having all of the information laid out in front of them (such as in price comparison offers).
Mobile commerce is expected to reach $38.4 billion in 2013, eMarketer estimated in a recent study. This is a growth rate of 55.7% from 2012. If that number holds true, it would mean that 15% of all e-commerce would come from a mobile device. In theory, E-Commerce retailers that have not yet adopted mobile sales and optimized their website could be turning away a significant portion of potential purchases. Big data will allow businesses to craft very specific experiences across a range of different devices, giving consumers as simple of a shopping experience as possible.
Product Research vs. Purchasing
Another often overlooked fact of mobile commerce is that depending on the product, users may feel more comfortable researching the product on their mobile device than they would making the purchase from it. Some users may research a product on their smart phone, then hop on their desktop in order to make the purchase. Others may use their smart phone to research in-store purchases.
Of smartphone and tablet owners, 58% of users utilize their mobile devices to research and learn about product or pricing options while in a physical store location, according to a 2013 survey from Maxymiser. This presents an opportunity for E-Commerce companies to potentially convert users into customers – even while they are in a physical location and considering making a purchase. By offering lower prices or more value, the user could be dissuaded from making the purchase in-store, and instead decide to make their purchase online.
Users have always been interested in ensuring that they get the best value for their purchase, and it’s clear that using a mobile device to conduct research at a physical store is a rapidly growing trend that could potentially allow smaller online businesses to compete with larger companies.
The early adopters in the initial smart device boom have been able to reap the rewards. The same can be said for the initial launch of the iPad and other tablets. Those that continue to be on the cutting edge of mobile have a leg up. Additionally, the ability of smaller businesses to pull the trigger more quickly on emerging trends give them a distinct advantage over the big players.
Companies that collect and use data to provide a seamless experience for consumers across multiple devices will reap the benefits of their hard work. Know exactly what your users typically use their devices for when browsing your website. Are they making a purchase, or researching a product? Know what devices they are using and provide a seamless experience for each and every device. The trends are clear that the lines between ‘mobile browsing’ and ‘desktop browsing’ will become increasingly blurry in the future. Although there may always be a future in desktop e-commerce, mobile e-commerce is clearly the future, and that fact is reflected in the data.