The Final eCommerce Piece: Why Mobile is so Important

This is the third and final post in our 3 post series on starting out with eCommerce. The first post is 7 Steps to Adding eCommerce to Your Business. The second post is Moving Forward: Integrating eCommerce with Your Legacy Systems.


Picture this: You’re in an electronics store, browsing the televisions. You see a young man walk in with purpose. He approaches a woman in a blue shirt, points to a specific TV. Five minutes later he’s walking out the door, pushing a cart with a brand new 60” 4K television on it.

What just happened?

Mobile commerce – otherwise known as mCommerce – that’s what.

Mobile eCommerceThe customer journey is being significantly altered by the existence of mCommerce. Smartphones and tablets are being used to research products before purchase. Some consumers are comparison shopping in-store.

Perhaps you think that these just aren’t the customers you want, but you do so at your own peril, especially if your target market is Millennials. Oracle found that 27% of shoppers from this group would have a negative view of a company’s products and services after a poor mobile experience.

Even more importantly, Goldman Sachs estimates that mCommerce transactions will top $626 billion by 2018. So while current conversions from mobile may be lower than desktop, that number will grow, and grow quickly.

So how are people using their phones and tablets to shop online? And what does your business need to do to capture these sales?

The Customer Journey

While we’ve just begun to map and model it in recent years, the customer journey has existed as long as people have had options in purchases. And when it comes to mobile, that journey takes a number of different paths.

Here are just a few scenarios to consider when thinking about the importance of mobile as part of your eCommerce strategy.

The Looker: This is the visitor who is accessing your online store for research, like in our TV example at the beginning of this article. The Looker is using their smartphone and tablet to get a greater understanding of the products you offer, what the details are and to get an understanding of price. You can bet they are comparison shopping, not just on cost but on service as well. They are also looking for the closest store and checking in store inventory. 70% of smartphone users who bought something offline first researched it online, according to Google.

The Checker: For this shopper, they will use their phone while in your brick and mortar location, doing things like checking prices, coupons and so forth. They are checking out things like customer reviews. They may also be looking at distance to other stores and in-store inventory at other locations.

The Buy It Now: 96% of people turn to their smartphone in their moment of need. And of those, 19% visited a retailer website or app in these moments.

These are just a few, simplified versions of the way consumers are already using their mobile devices for shopping.

And while smartphones are a critical component to your mCommerce strategy, don’t forget about tablet users. When it comes to conversions, in fact, tablet users should be your biggest targets. In Q4 of 2015, smartphone conversions in the U.S. were close to 1.43%, as compared with traditional eCommerce conversion rate closer to 4.7%. However, tablet conversions were much closer to traditional, with rates close to 3.9%.

Consumers like doing their research on their phones, but are more likely to make that purchase from their tablet.

Play by the Rules, or Lose

Let’s look at a few quick stats about search and eCommerce:

  • In 2015, search traffic changed from primarily desktop to primarily mobile
  • According to Google, 30% of purchases were preceded by an Internet search
  • In early 2015, Google’s “Mobilegeddon” caused businesses to lose search rankings in mobile searches if they didn’t have a mobile friendly site

With these facts in mind, you can quickly see how important it is to have a mobile friendly online shopping experience. Or to connect the dots: when it comes to mobile searches (which are the majority of searches), Google will rank you lower than competitors if you do not have a mobile friendly site. And since there are a significant number of people who use search right before a purchase, you will lose sales without a mobile experience.

Getting in the Game

Building out your mCommerce experience starts like all application development should – by defining a good user experience.

If your enterprise hasn’t built your eCommerce site yet, you’re in luck. You could choose the option to start with a mobile first strategy.

Traditionally, companies would design and architect their desktop experience and then later retrofit a mobile site. More recently, companies would design both side by side – a desktop experience would be created that would also work on mobile.

But now that paradigm is getting flipped, especially for eCommerce builds. Sites are being developed for tablets and smartphones first, with the natural simplicity and clean designs needed for mobile translating well to a desktop browser.

If you have already chosen an eCommerce platform, check with your vendor to find out what your platform supports natively with mobile. Most modern applications will at least handle responsive layouts, and may even support mobile applications.

Mobile Enhancements that Benefit Your Customer and You

Going mobile isn’t only about providing the best experience for your customers, either. There are benefits for your business as well, beyond getting a piece of online sales.

Many businesses, from retail to airlines, are beginning to leverage beacons as part of their mobile strategy. Beacons are physical landmarks that can send signals to your mobile device, like when you’re driving near a store. These kinds of push notifications are what most retailers use beacons for.

However, there is a wealth of information for your enterprise thanks to the use of beacons. They can help provide shopper insights that you might otherwise miss out on. And in a world in which consumers expect an omni-channel experience, having insights into those behaviors can give you a leg up on your competition.
Mobile experiences can no longer be an afterthought for businesses. With an increasing number of users who turn first, and even exclusively to their phones and tablets for research and shopping, it’s fair to say that ignoring mobile as an access point for your eCommerce will cause you to lose sales. More importantly, the loses won’t be confined to online only, but will extend to your brick and mortar sales as well.