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Mobile commerce: what it is and why you should care

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Mobile commerce: what it is and why you should care


Mobile commerce has long been touted as the future of ecommerce itself.

Well, it looks like the future is here.

Mobile transactions are poised to make up more than 10% of all retail sales in the United States by 2025.

At a glance, this might not seem like breaking news. The concept of mobile shopping is pretty universal, right?

Checking reviews before buying in-store. Browsing brands on Instagram.

And of course, making impulse purchases on the go.

But just because consumers can buy from you via mobile doesn’t mean that your storefront is optimized. Not by a long shot.

Below we’ve broken down why brands need to prioritize mobile commerce and how to create a better customer experience.

What is mobile commerce?

Mobile commerce (also referred to as “mcommerce” or “m-commerce”) is a branch of ecommerce that covers any transactions conducted on a mobile device.

Beyond direct purchasing, activities associated with mobile commerce also include: engaging with mobile ads, communicating with sales reps via smartphone and researching brands on a mobile device.

The continued boom of mobile commerce goes hand in hand with the growth of multichannel marketing. Brands with a strong mobile presence can reach customers anywhere and anytime.

With consumers so glued to their devices, streamlining the process of smartphone shopping is a must-do for modern brands (see below).

skullcandy mobile ecommerce customer journey

What are some examples of mobile commerce?

Mobile commerce is about more than just “using your phone to buy stuff.” The broader definition of mobile commerce includes any purchasing activity made on an app or mobile browser. This includes:

  • In-app purchases
  • Mobile browser transactions
  • Social commerce: researching or buying products directly from social media or social media ads (see below)
  • Livestream shopping: where customers make purchases through real-time streaming via Amazon, Facebook or Instagram
  • AR shopping: using camera apps to preview products in virtual spaces (think: the IKEA app for furniture or the EyeBuyDirect app for virtual glasses try-on)
  • Conversational commerce: completing transactions with the assistance of mobile reps (through chat apps or social media)
instagram shopping exampe

4 must-know mobile commerce statistics and market trends

The amount of time and money spent on mobile transactions is staggering.

But don’t take our word for it.

Below are some recent mobile commerce statistics that highlight the dominance of smartphone shopping and why brands can’t ignore it.

1. Mobile commerce sales in the United States grew 41.4% in 2020 alone

From grocery orders and basic necessities to retail therapy and beyond, the COVID-19 pandemic saw mobile commerce explode.

The rapid growth of smartphone shopping isn’t just an anomaly for 2020, though. Consider that consumer behaviors from the early pandemic will likely continue — that means fewer mobile skeptics and ongoing reliance on smartphone shopping from the public at large.

2. Smartphone shopping will generate $295.41 billion in US sales in 2021, making up 82.2% of total retail mcommerce sales

With nearly $300 billion on the table, companies literally can’t afford to treat their mobile presence as an afterthought.

Keep in mind that these sales aren’t solely the result of allowing shoppers to make smartphone purchases. The popularity of mobile marketing tactics such as social selling, retargeting ads and mobile-only offers will continue to move the needle.

3. Over half of all retail ecommerce sales in Latin America will take place via mobile in 2022

Given that 80% of the world has smartphones in their hand, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

Either out of preference or necessity, embracing mobile commerce is crucial for the sake of expanding into new markets. This is especially true in regions where mobile network accessibility is greater than traditional Internet access.

4. Smartphone traffic continues to outpace desktops, with 55% of all web traffic coming from mobile devices

For those of us that almost exclusively shop via desktop, this might be an eye-opener.

Especially among younger consumers, smartphones represent the primary means of Internet access. This highlights how improving your mobile presence should be a priority whether you’re a merchant or not.

What are the advantages of mobile commerce?

The benefits of mobile commerce are well-documented for consumers and brands alike.

Below we’ve broken down some of the key benefits to consider.

For consumers

  • Convenience. This is the big one. The ability to make purchases from anywhere, not stuck at a desktop or tied to traditional business hours, speaks for itself in terms of convenience.
  • Immediacy. If you see it, you can buy it. Time-sensitive transactions such as emergency buys, last-minute purchases and flash sales can all be completed in a matter of seconds.
  • Instantly find new brands to buy from.  In short, mobile commerce provides a quick and timely avenue for consumers to research products and mentally bookmark brands to buy from later.

For brands

  • Less friction and fewer opportunities for customers to bounce. Mobile commerce both encourages and capitalizes on the consumer desire to buy ASAP. This ultimately results in a more efficient funnel and a speedier purchasing journey.
  • Mobile makes it easier for shoppers to share purchases. From social media mentions to customer photo tags via Instagram, smartphones empower customers to shout out their favorite brands with less effort.
  • Data! There’s so much to learn about re: customer behavior through mobile commerce. For example, when are your mobile shoppers most active? Which items and pages are they spending the most time on? Are they visiting you on social after they bounce?

For example, brands that have mastered ecommerce social media can use invaluable mobile data to:

  • “Follow” their bounced traffic via mobile ads and personalized offers
  • Go back-and-forth with customers and reference their past purchasing activity (hint: conversational commerce)
  • Use social listening tools to understand customer compliments, complaints and concerns (see below)

sentiment analysis in sprout social
What are some examples of mobile commerce in action?

So, how does mobile commerce work?

And what exactly makes it different than, say, desktop shopping?

Fair questions! Below are two mobile commerce examples that highlight what “good” mcommerce looks like in action.

A tap-friendly customer journey from start to finish

For smartphone shopping, the game is “less is more.”

Brands are tasked with driving transactions with limited real estate. Additionally, brands must put as much information and customer actions “above the fold.” The more shoppers have to scramble and scroll, the more likely they are to bounce.

This mcommerce example from Milk Makeup highlights how to win customers’ trust and answer all of their pressing questions by:

  • Highlighting best sellers and positive reviews on both category and product pages
  • Reminding shoppers multiple times what purchasing threshold they need to reach to receive free shipping
  • Clear buttons and calls-to-action, particularly during the order summary and checkout phase
milk makeup mobile commerce customer journey

Seamless shopping from social media

Consumers are becoming more comfortable with the concept of making purchases that start from social media.

Below is an example from Soludos’ Instagram Shop that highlights how to do the same. This includes:

  • Tagging products in photos without sacrificing style points or being too obtrusive
  • A direct link from their Instagram Shop to their ecommerce store
  • Consistent branding from their Instagram to their on-site product pages (including imagery)
soludos mobile commerce on social media example

3 ways brands can optimize their stores for mobile commerce

Despite the popularity of smartphone shopping, keep in mind that mobile purchases don’t happen by accident.

Brands need to take specific steps to ensure they aren’t freezing out shoppers on the go.

To wrap things up, let’s look at some actionable changes and improvements to consider for a better mobile shopping experience.

1. Improve mobile UX and site loading speeds

Slow site speed is a proven conversion killer. Meanwhile, many mobile sites are a total slog to get through.

From disappearing menus to crowded product pages, it’s easy to overlook the fine details of UX if you haven’t put your site under the microscope. Here are some basic UX tips from Google to consider, including:

  • Highlighting main product categories on your homepage
  • Including a homepage search bar to reduce needless browsing (see below)
  • Implement “hamburger-style” dropdown menus to help direct traffic
  • Not hiding product descriptions or requiring visitors to tap through to see them
mobile commerce conversion optimization

2. Simplify the checkout process

Remember what we said about “less is more?”

The fewer head-scratching moments and bottlenecks during your checkout process, the better. For starters, you should:

  • Require fewer form fields to collect customer information
  • Reduce the number of confirmation screens between adding a product to a cart and completing a purchase
  • Allow users to checkout using a guest account
  • Accept as many payment options as reasonably possible
  • Make shipping costs crystal clear prior to checkout

For example, having to create a new account is among the most common reasons for cart abandonment (second only to surprise shipping costs).

Check out how brands like ASOS allow shoppers to use a variety of guest logins and payment processors for the sake of convenience. This is the sort of seamless shopping experience mobile stores should strive for.

seamless mobile commerce checkout example

3. Prioritize selling on social media

Instagram and Facebook Shops. Social ads. Product-centric content.

As noted in our guide to social commerce, businesses of all sizes are committed to selling through social platforms.

data on brands embracing mobile commerce through social shopping

Again, mobile commerce is all about reaching customers whenever and wherever.

Through social media, you can create a brand new avenue to sell to an audience that’s already engaged and familiar with you. Doing so is a low-hanging opportunity to boost sales and customer satisfaction at the same time.

Are you prepared for the future of mobile commerce?

Listen: mobile shopping is here to stay.

If anything, all indicators from ecommerce research and consumer behavior signal that mobile commerce has nowhere to go but up.

The sooner you get on board and optimize your storefront, the better.

And with the tips above and tools like Sprout Social, you can use your social media data to attract more mobile shoppers and create a top-tier customer experience.

If you haven’t already, check out our guide on how to build a social commerce strategy to understand how you can step up your social selling ASAP.



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