If you’re one of the 6.378 billion people in the world who owns a smartphone, you probably already know how much your mobile device plays into your everyday life.
Most of us, especially Millennials and Gen Zers, have our smartphones attached to our hip 24/7. In the morning, we wake up and use our phones to check messages and emails and catch up on daily news, and before bed, we use them to watch our favorite TV shows and scroll through social media.
And all throughout the day, we use our smartphones to complete even the simplest tasks, like paying bills, checking the weather and getting driving directions.
But as of recent years, mobile devices have also become a popular medium for online shopping — and that’s where mobile commerce steps in.
Mobile commerce, also called m-commerce, includes any monetary transaction completed using a mobile device, such as a cell phone or tablet.
It is an advancement of ecommerce, enabling people to buy and sell goods or services from almost anywhere, simply using a mobile phone or tablet device.
But mobile commerce is more than just a simple evolution of electronic commerce.
It has also served as a trigger for new industries and services or helped existing ones grow, including:
While m-commerce covers a wide variety of transactions, they can all be categorized as one of three types:
This is mostly similar to ecommerce but accessible via your iPhone or Android. Mobile shopping is now possible through mobile optimized websites, dedicated shopping apps and even social media platforms.
Mobile banking isn’t too different from online banking, however you may find some transaction types are limited or restricted on mobile devices. Mobile banking usually involves a dedicated app, though some banks have started experimenting with the use of chatbots and messaging apps.
There are so many diverse mobile payment options that we have chosen to cover them in detail further in this article.
As a business owner and user of BigCommerce, your exposure and interest in mobile commerce would mostly relate to shopping and payments, which is what the rest of this article will focus on.
Not long ago, creating mobile apps and switching to mobile-friendly platforms may have only been an option for larger companies like Amazon and Walmart, but as the cost of going mobile drops, more and more companies are able to reap the benefits.
So, whether you’re a big or small business, keep reading to find out some of the key advantages of mobile commerce and how it can help you scale your business.
The advent of ecommerce was already a huge improvement in the way we shop. With the ability to shop from their desktop computer instead of walking into a store, customers could access a wider range of products, compare pricing quickly and shop from the comfort of their own homes.
But now, shoppers can still do all of these things, but they don’t even need a desktop computer — they just need the phone in their back pocket.
Plus, the very nature of m-commerce means that it has certain capabilities that you simply can’t find with ecommerce:
Although mobile commerce already has a large user base, the industry growth shows no sign of stopping.
In 2021, mobile ecommerce sales were expected to account for 6% of all US retail sales. But by 2025, Statista forecasts that m-commerce sales will make up over 10% of all US retail sales, which would be a growth of 7 percent points since 2018.
Omnichannel commerce refers to selling both in-store and online through multiple channels — on your ecommerce website, Amazon, eBay, Instagram, etc — to create a seamless experience and cohesive brand message across all touchpoints.
But more than that, creating an omnichannel experience is about meeting your customers where they are and making it easier for them to buy.
Therefore, mobile devices are the ideal medium for omnichannel commerce, since you can expect that most of your customers have their smartphones on hand at all times.
Many ecommerce sites now offer one-click checkout functionalities, which allow customers to enter their payment details only once, and then they can use the one-click option every time they make a purchase thereafter.
Although m-commerce is on the up and up, we can’t forget that desktop still matters. In fact, desktop still holds many advantages over mobile.
According to Retail TouchPoints, the average desktop device has a conversion rate of 3.9%, which is more than double the 1.8% average rate for smartphones.
However, the reason for this is likely the difference in screen size rather than mobility, considering tablets held a conversion rate of 3.8%, while other devices with smaller screens (i.e. smart watches) had a rate of only 0.1%.
On top of that, desktop devices are also farther ahead of mobile devices in terms of order value. Statista found that, in 2019, smartphones accounted for 64% of global retail website visits but only generated 46% of ecommerce revenue, which was the same as desktop devices.
Thus, there is an evident need for mobile commerce optimization.
As consumer behavior continues to change, you will need to be aware of the latest technologies and applications to ensure that your online store is not just mobile-friendly, but also fast, convenient and easy to navigate.
While the abundance of payment methods can be an advantage, unfortunately, not all payment platforms and mobile wallets are available in all regions. Plus, customers in different regions often prefer certain payment options over others, making it more complex for online retailers to manage their business on a global scale.
You might think that offering more payment options would simplify the mobile experience, but sometimes less is more.
In fact, a 2000 study found that offering too many product choices often leads to decreased sales and customer satisfaction.
Thus, you’ll want to figure out the right mix of payment options for your area of business and the locations you’re serving. It may seem difficult at first, but as you gather data about your customers and understand their preferences, you’ll be able to gauge which payment options work best for you.
One of the pitfalls of simplifying the mobile user experience is that it makes it much easier for customers to quickly compare prices across a variety of stores. In just a few clicks, customers can find out how much a similar product costs from your store and ten others — and often they’ll search until they find the cheapest product for the highest value.
So, how do you combat this? By — just like your customers — being aware of how you match with your competitors. Look out for when competitors drop or raise their prices, as well as shipping costs, and be ready to react.
According to a study by Forrester, 30% of smartphone users said they don’t make online purchases on their mobile device, because they don’t feel secure using mobile payment services, and 14% said they were afraid of their phone information being sold to third parties.
Therefore, when customers give permission to access their data through their mobile devices, ecommerce businesses hold a greater responsibility to protect their personal data and steward it well.
You’ll need to comply with a wider range of regulations but also be transparent with your customers in how you’re using their collecting and sharing their information.
Luckily, when it comes to m-commerce payment options, there’s no shortage of solutions to choose from.
But deciding which payment options to offer on your ecommerce site is even more important for your mobile site, since most customers are looking for something that’s quick and convenient — which is why one-click checkout has become increasingly popular.
If you can spare your customers the tedious step of entering in their credit card details and personal information each time they make a purchase, you may be on your way to more conversions, sales and loyal customers.
Here we’ll give a brief overview of the most common types of mobile payments so that you can determine which is best for your business.
Using mobile wallets, customers can store debit card or credit card details, shipping addresses and other payment details. So, instead of tediously re-entering card details and personal information every time they make a purchase, customers can quickly and conveniently checkout in just a few clicks.
US fashion brand Natori, for example, uses PayPal One-Touch for one-click checkout.
These are some of the most popular mobile wallets on the market:
To create a better omnichannel experience, contactless mobile payments use mobile wallets to facilitate payments in-store.
If the customer has already inputted their payment information into a mobile wallet — typically Apply Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay — they can then use their mobile wallet when making payments at a physical store. Rather than swiping a credit or debit card or paying with cash, all they have to do is place their phone near a supported terminal to validate and transmit payment.
Just like mobile wallets, closed loop mobile payments enable users to input their payment details one time instead of re-entering them for every transaction.
However, closed loop payments are linked to only a single brand’s mobile app. This option allows customers to load money onto a spending account or gift card, where the customer can check their balance, add more money and make payments either online or in-store.
These are some well-known examples of closed loop mobile payments:
Below you can see how Atlanta Light Bulbs utilizes this payment method, which helps speed up the payment process for customers and creates a more seamless shopping experience.
Rather than transferring money through mobile banking apps, users now have the option to transfer money quickly and securely through a wide range of platforms:
A mobile point-of-sale system is a smartphone, tablet or other mobile card reader that acts as a cash register by processing transactions wirelessly.
Since the mobile card readers are portable and relatively inexpensive, these are a great option for smaller merchants, since all you need is a mobile device. Some of these systems even integrate with multiple ecommerce platforms, which means you can automatically sync sales and inventory from your online and physical stores.
If you’re interested in trying out mobile POS, here are some popular systems:
For desktop computers, page speed has always been a contributor to how an ecommerce site will rank on Google — the faster the page load, the more likely it is that the site will rank higher.
However, in light of m-commerce, Google has recently transitioned to a mobile-first index, meaning that online stores that are optimized for mobile devices will organically rank higher than those that are not.
Of course, page speed affects more than just SEO ranking.
According to a study by Google, the probability of bounce increases dramatically with every couple seconds added to the page load time.
Luckily, BigCommerce customers have Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) enabled so their sites and product catalogs load faster on a mobile device.
Moreover, you need to consider how your images may be affecting your page speed. While you definitely want to display high-quality product images on your storefront, you also don’t want to risk increasing your page load time, especially if your customers are shopping on mobile devices. To help find the happy medium between image quality and optimization, BigCommerce offers industry-leading image optimization solutions like Akamai image manager which render the appropriate version of the content in real-time.
As of 2020, eMarketer estimates that US adults will spend, on average, more than 4 hours on mobile internet, and 88% of that time will be within apps rather than mobile browsers. Not to mention about 70% of sales are made via mobile branded apps.
Why is this?
Because mobile apps allow merchants to control the customer experience.
Rather than digging through the internet, comparing products and pricing, the customer has intentionally downloaded and opened your app alone. As a result, mobile apps tend to have a higher conversion rate than websites on mobile browsers.
Plus, you can optimize your mobile app to retarget loyal customers, using incentives such as promotions and discounts to reward app shoppers exclusively.
Similar to how Instagram and Facebook are unique channels for a subset of customers, your branded app can also target specific customers who are seeking a unique experience.
Just because mobile commerce is rising in popularity doesn’t mean you need to immediately hop on the bandwagon. For some online businesses, m-commerce might not be the most effective medium.
Here are a couple of red flags to look out for:
We’ve already established that mobile commerce is quite different than traditional ecommerce — therefore, you can’t expect that all the resources and talent you have are going to perfectly transfer when you build a mobile store.
Going mobile requires that you have the right talent to help facilitate this shift. M-commerce is an increasingly competitive market, so you’ll want to come equipped with an in-house or outsourced development team for mobile projects. Without the people and the resources, it may be more difficult to get the results you want.
Before you jump into building a mobile site or branded app, you need to make sure that the audience you’re targeting is actually active on their handheld devices. If not, you may be wasting your time and resources.
As of 2021, smartphone ownership in the US is least common among adults 65 years and older (only 61%). So, if your business is geared toward older adults, then perhaps mobile commerce isn’t where you should put your focus.
Ready to see your business go mobile?
Here we’ve highlighted some m-commerce tips and trends to help you have a successful launch.
It’s easy to get caught up in the latest design trends rather than optimizing your mobile site. Although responsive design does help make a mobile website more eye-catching, it doesn’t necessarily result in sales. Luckily, BigCommerce offers a variety of mobile integrations and features — such as text marketing and automation, one-click checkout and a built-in mobile shopping cart — to help your customers have the best experience on their mobile device.
Considering 91% of social media users engage with social channels through their mobile devices and 80% of total time spent on social media occurs through mobile platforms, it’s no surprise that social commerce is on the rise. Social commerce platforms such as Facebook Shop, Instagram Shopping and Pinterest Business are paving the way for a seamless buying experience, allowing mobile users to browse products and complete purchases without ever leaving the app.
But let’s not forget about brick and mortar. The best mobile commerce websites weave into an overarching omnichannel strategy, which creates a holistic experience across online and offline channels.
In 2019, Statista found that many customers rely on their mobile devices not just for online purchases but also for in-store shopping experiences.
One way to link mobile and in-store shopping is by offering click-to-mortar options, such as buying online and picking up in-store. This gives shoppers the ease of browsing and buying from the comfort of their homes, without having to wait several days for delivery.
According to Insider Intelligence, in 2019, global consumer retail spend via chatbots was valued at $2.8 billion, but by 2024, that number is expected to reach $142 billion.
As shoppers expect 24/7 customer service, online retailers are increasingly utilizing chatbots and virtual assistants to help answer questions and provide support at the customer’s beck and call.
Not only will chatbots drive customer communications, but they’ll also make it easier for you as a merchant to focus on other aspects of your business.
Farmer Boy Agriculture is one BigCommerce customer that utilizes chatbots to create a more engaging mobile experience. Right when you reach the homepage, you’ll find a chat box in the bottom corner where you can contact their customer support team at any time of day.
A study by Statista found that coupons and special offers were the number one incentive for mobile users to download retail apps, but the second top reason was loyalty and reward programs.
Each time a customer makes a purchase, they can earn “points,” which add up over time and eventually become redeemable for an award, such as a discount on a product or early access to a new collection.
Not only do these reward programs influence shoppers to download your app, but more importantly, they incentivize shoppers to come back to your store and make another purchase in the future.
Especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, augmented reality became a powerful tool for retailers to replicate in-person experiences online, particularly within the fashion and beauty industry.
Using 3D and AR technologies, online shoppers can now see exactly how a clothing item would look on themselves — before ever holding the product in their hands. By detecting the customer’s contour, AR and VR fitting rooms give customers a clear picture of the size, fit and style of a product.
Another great example is furniture brand Burrow, which uses augmented reality to help customers envision how their couches will fit in their homes. Through the Burrow at Home app, customers can take a photo of their living room, upload it in the app and place 3D models of Burrow’s couches in the photos to get a better idea of how a product will look in person.
Needless to say, mobile commerce is not just a trend but a phenomenon that’s here to stay. As smartphones become more central to how we communicate, gather information and now shop online, mobile commerce will likely become less of an option and more of a necessity for ecommerce retailers.
Of course, m-commerce is only a slice of the pie. Keep in mind that maintaining an effective omnichannel strategy requires that your mobile website or app weaves effortlessly into other channels, rather than standing alone.
Remember that mobile commerce is all about meeting your customers where they are and giving them a convenient yet memorable experience.