“Mobile first.” I bet you hear that term a lot. It’s a goal – maybe even a grail – for many companies.
And while some reports show small businesses and even the Fortune 500 lagging behind when it comes to mobile, retailers seem to be doing a bit better. According to the 2016 Kount-sponsored “Mobile Trends in Retail” report,
54% of retailers in this year’s [Internet Retailer] Mobile 500 guide have dedicated mobile websites, 20% responsive design (versus 9% last year) and 18% dynamic serving, which is a hybrid between responsive design and a standalone website. The rest of the sites had no clear mobile-optimized site presence.
That leaves 8% – nearly one in ten – of ecommerce sites still not mobile-friendly. This is even after the much-hailed Google “Mobilegeddon” of last year, and despite the fact that mobile traffic outpaced desktop back in late 2013.
Whatever the reason for the lag, it can be good news for you. Very good news. Witness Walmart’s success when they upgraded to a mobile-responsive site: A 98% increase in mobile sales.
To give you some inspiration to lean into mobile commerce, we’ve rounded up the latest research on how consumers use their phones to shop.
Mobile is big in ecommerce, but not yet dominant
The first thing to know about mobile ecommerce trends is that while mobile ecommerce is growing fast, it has not yet taken over the world… “yet” being the operative word. Several studies, including this 2016 survey from MarketingSherpa, show that most people are still not using mobile devices to shop.
However, roughly 30% are. Their numbers grow every year. And the younger they are, the more likely people are to use their phones to make purchases.
Like that stat? You’ll like this even more: 30% is exactly what Custora found in its 2016 research about mobile ecommerce:
Compare that to UK-based Demandware, who reports that 55% of all ecommerce traffic worldwide is from mobile. Phones get 45% (they tie with desktops) while tablets eat up 10%.
This is a bit different than strict sales figures, as we’re talking about traffic – and mobile traffic doesn’t convert quite as well as desktops (again: yet). More about that in a moment.
For one last bit of data on this point (I promise), see how your industry stands for percent of mobile revenue:
Of course, that 30% is expected to increase over the next few years. Here’s what eMarketer predicts for mobile sales:
Conversion rate for mobile devices
One of the easiest ways to meet those eMarketer projections would be to get mobile ecommerce’s conversion rates up. They tend to be well below the conversion rates for desktops. Traffic from smartphones does particularly poorly.
This may be in part because retailers haven’t yet developed streamlined mobile checkouts. Or it might be that consumers prefer the familiarity and functionality of a desktop when they’re handing over money.
Or it might be because a site is slow. Even desktop shoppers will bail on a slow site, but mobile users have even less patience: 57% of them will abandon a site if it takes more than three seconds to load.
The conversion rates in the table above aren’t great, but they could be worse. But just looking at mobile sales doesn’t tell the whole story.
There’s more to shopping than checkout
There’s shopping – as in completing checkout – and then there’s shopping as in doing research and preliminary product selection. A lot of that is happening via mobile.
In fact, it may be the primary shopping function that’s happening on mobile devices. At least according to research from Nielsen earlier this year:
The Nielsen graph shows quite a few shopping-like functions that aren’t specifically checkout. Researching an item, checking the price, and finding a store all make the top three most common tasks.
This graph also mentions a bunch of other tasks we’ve either talked about already, or will discuss soon:
- Purchasing an item via mobile, then picking it up in a physical store.
- Using a social network to make a comment about a purchase.
- Purchasing an item after going to a physical store.
You can see this trend of shopping-related tasks in the Marketing Sherpa chart at the beginning of this article, too. If you scrolled up, you’d see “Purchase products or services” in about in the middle of the graph. “Find new products and services” is a bit lower. Then there’s “Figure out where to go and what to do.” The results of the two surveys (Nielsen’s and Marketing Sherpa’s) complement each other.
People use their mobile devices for email
I probably don’t have to tell you how often people check email on their phones. It’s such a common activity that some of us don’t even get out of bed without grabbing our phone to check our inboxes.
This addiction spills over into mobile ecommerce, too. Mobile email’s role in the purchasing process gets even clearer if you ask people how they’d prefer to receive marketing messages. Our second Marketing Sherpa chart below shows how they answer. For younger folks, it’s primarily email – but specifically, “email on mobile phones”.
You’ve probably heard us harp on how more than half of emails are opened on mobile devices. And how email messages that look bad on mobile devices get deleted in a blink. But here’s a whole reason to make sure your emails are mobile-friendly – these mobile users are keen to shop. And they prefer to get information about shopping on their mobile phones.
This is true even if they aren’t big email readers. Notice the other mobile communication channel listed on this chart: It’s text messages. SMS ecommerce is still in relative infancy, but it’s got a very promising future. Given the success of messaging apps (they’ve beat out social media for traffic), there’s no denying people love the format.
One more thing about that graph: Notice all the app activity. There’s “company’s mobile app” and push notifications from the company’s app.
Apps as a mobile ecommerce channel
Apps are a huge part of mobile use. If your retail site doesn’t have one yet, it’s probably time to put that on your to do list.
Why? Three reasons:
- Many of your customers expect as app or prefer to use an app
- Many of your competitors already have one
- The money: Mobile sales from apps were up 68.7% from 2014 to 2015
Mobile users tend to be social users
There’s apps, and then there’s their technological cousins – social media platforms. The two are inextricable: Facebook’s app has more mobile traffic than the desktop version. There are entire social media sites dedicated to shopping (and not just Pinterest) – and of course, they all have apps.
Case in point: Venmo, bought by PayPal not so long ago. It basically blends mobile ecommerce with social sharing – every purchase you make via Venmo gets shared to either your Facebook friends or to your Facebook page’s public wall.
If the idea of that makes you uncomfortable, you may be over 40. But the kids love it. Venmo logged a billion dollars worth of transactions in January of this year. That’s two and a half times more than it did in January of the year prior. That’s not quite like Snapchat’s crazy 4x growth year over year, but impressive nonetheless.
Mobile shoppers are in-store shoppers
I’d be giving you an incomplete view of mobile shoppers if we didn’t talk about retail locations. You know, those old-fashioned, expensive brick and mortar channels. But ironically, there’s a lot of synergy between new fangled mobile ecommerce and brick and mortar sites.
Here’s just one example: Mobile shoppers often place an order via their phones (via an app or a mobile site), and then pick up their purchase at a nearby shop. King Retail Solutions surveyed 1,211 US shoppers 19 and older earlier this year, and found that as of 2015, more than half of them want to make a purchase online, then pick up in store.
The company Blackhawk Engagement took this idea a step further and asked shoppers specifically which incentives would get them to try in-store pickup. Here’s how they answered:
This isn’t an isolated report. According to RSR’s research, about half of shoppers are already using in-store pickup:
Mobile and brick and mortar channels get even chummier if you look at local ecommerce. Google has made quite a study of this. It focuses heavily on the intersection of local and mobile ecommerce in it’s Think with Google education hub. Their recent case study of how Target is handling mobile ecommerce, “For Target, Mobile Is the New Front Door,” is one example. According to Google, three-fourths of Target’s “guests” (their term for customers) start their shopping journey on mobile.
Just one more stat to top you off: According to Google’s research, 82% of shoppers say they consult their phones on purchases they’re about to make in a store.
Think “mobile first”, but not to the exclusion of everything else
While it’s definitely time to do more “mobile first” thinking, don’t abandon other advertising and marketing channels. Just diversify better. It doesn’t make sense to split your budget to 80% non-mobile and 20% mobile when your customers are interacting in the reverse – 80% of the time through mobile devices, and 20% of the time through everything else.
Does that 80/20 split seem extreme? It is a little, but according to Comscore’s 2016 U.S. Cross-Platform Future in Focus report, it’s not far off.
ComScore’s research also dug into specifically what the mobile versus desktop split was for retail traffic. Here’s that table:
The retail split is 38% desktop and 62% mobile. But look in the shift in the last two years – 13 points of retail traffic has shifted over to mobile in the last two years. If it keeps going like this, the final tally for 2016 retail traffic will be 75% mobile and 25% desktop.
Any retailer who waits until then to start thinking “mobile first” may be in for a hard time.
Mobile commerce is multi-dimensional. It’s is a blend of devices, apps and retail locations for most shoppers. And that doesn’t include the added twists of local searches, or how reviews further shape buyer decisions. Or SMS marketing… or whatever else we dream up next.
The complexity doesn’t end with the technology, either. Mobile users are evolving, maybe even faster than the technologies. Shoppers are willing to try out everything from announcing their purchases on social media to ordering via their phone then picking their purchase up in store. They’ll even get so retro as to use a mobile coupon at their grocery store.
Tracking the customer journey through all those paths is a challenge. Add some personalization (which many customers expect), and you’ve got quite the project. We’ve come to the point where just keeping up with our customers is cutting-edge. But there are more and more technologies available to help us keep up – and more and more examples of companies who are getting it right.
So here’s the bottom line: If you haven’t yet committed to it, it’s time for a full-court press on mobile. Very soon, none of this will be cutting-edge. It’ll be necessary for survival.