May 2, 2017
5 min read time

M-commerce: The frontier that’s already here

The dominance of e-commerce in the world of retail surged over the past two decades to the point that online shopping is a regular part of daily life, often surpassing real-life retail experiences in convenience, cost and even immediacy: you can find exactly what you want online (no guarantees at your local shop) and have it shipped to you, and in some cases, have it in hand the same or next day. All from the comfort of home, office or wherever you happen to be. I think we’re all pretty used to this.

But what we haven't yet done is make the inevitable, but slower than expected, leap from e-commerce to m-commerce.

Pulling the trigger on mobile purchases

For a variety of reasons, people have the safety on when it comes to pulling the trigger on making mobile purchases. The last step in online retail: hitting the 'buy now' button (the last big hurdle after placing items in a shopping cart) rather than abandoning just isn’t happening as frequently or in as rapid a fashion on mobile as it has done on more traditional e-commerce channels (standard desktops, for example).

According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and comScore, m-commerce only made up about 11.6% of the USD 303 billion U.S. e-commerce total, so shopping on mobile still a tiny slice of the pie. But it’s not like there’s no movement. In fact, with mobile overtaking desktop as the primary internet-browsing device (Business Insider puts Q2-2015 numbers at 59% mobile, 41% desktop), it would stand to reason that mobile purchases would increase correspondingly. They haven’t. According to the same Business Insider article, consumers spent just 15% of their dollars on mobile and 85% on desktop.

Target practice: Moving from mobile research to mobile purchases

Would-be buyers are doing up to half of their shopping-related activities (research and discovery most of all) on mobile, according to research from Synchrony Financial. But only up to about 18% actually made a purchase on mobile. In fairness this number increases annually but still hasn’t reached a tipping point, and it appears that the growth comes largely from younger, millennial buyers. A Pew Research Center report confirms the generational difference: “Some 90% of 18- to 29-year-olds ever buy items online, while 77% have purchased something using their cellphones and 24% have bought something by following a link on social media. By contrast, a majority (59%) of those 65 and older ever generally make online purchases–but only 17% have bought something using their cellphones and just 5% have done so through a social media link.”

Despite the age-based gap in behaviors, most consumers of all ages are doing their research on mobile. An xAd and Telmetrics report (from 2014) indicated, in fact, that up to 60% of consumers used mobile devices exclusively for making purchase decisions, even if they did not act on their decisions on the mobile device itself.

Hitting the bullseye: Easing consumers into mobile purchases with high-performance mobile user experience

Why let these decided buyers get away without making the purchase? It’s not that mobile purchases aren’t possible: they just aren’t always user friendly, as the Business Insider piece describes: “The mobile shopping experience is a nightmare. Users get so frustrated when trying to shop on their phones that they far more often than not abandon the process.”

There are a few reasons for this. Some of the biggest impediments come down to the user experience - not consumer fear. The Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed consumers in 2015 to find out why more purchases weren’t being made on mobile. More than half of respondents simply ‘preferred desktop’ while less than a third cited privacy fears. The collection of other reasons, though, came down to ease of (or lack thereof) use: the purchase process on mobile was too slow, the retailer’s app/website was too cumbersome in general, for navigation or for the small screen.

And while marketing departments are doing their part (mobile-purchase-only promotions and deals, for example), the underlying technology for making a great mobile e-commerce experience has to accompany any buy-now deals, sales or gimmicks.

Optimizing for the m-commerce experience

Apart from ensuring that making a purchase on a phone or tablet is as easy as a desktop-based purchase, behind-the-scenes technology can lend a tremendous boost to the mobile shopping experience.

Speed is often cited as one of the major stumbling blocks to moving forward with mobile purchases. We shop online so we don’t have to wait in line, so why would we wait for pages to load? While you can’t do much about the mobile network the user accesses, you can optimize page assembly and composition without sacrificing the personalized parts of the user’s shopping experience. With Varnish Software, intelligent caching solutions can contribute major performance gains to bring the m-commerce experience much closer to the e-commerce one.

Some performance improvements are actually in your hands. A few examples of how to enhance the mobile content delivery experience:

  • Edgestash: On-the-fly mobile page assembly for lowest possible page-load times
  • Parallel ESI: High-performance management of dynamic content, even on mobile

Make it easy, smooth, fast - don’t give consumers a reason to second guess a purchase or to wait until they get home to the desktop. Set yourself up for better m-commerce performance:

Join us for a live webinar on 23 May to learn more about managing your mobile content delivery performance.

Register for the live webinar on mobile optimization