Chances are if you’re like most people you use your phone for a lot more than making calls. Between smartphones and tablets, the wireless industry is changing the way we live, work, and play, thanks to turbo-charged mobile devices that have more computing power than the laptops of a decade ago. Analysts at the American information technology research firm Gartner have even predicted that tablets and smartphones will outsell both laptops and desktops PCs worldwide by 2017. There may still be three years to go until that happens, but we’re already living in a transformative time where e-commerce technology is concerned.
Did you know that mobile sales in the US drive more than 20% of total online revenue? It’s less than surprising when you consider that mobile traffic now accounts for 25% of total traffic to all retail sites. In response, retail websites are evolving to find their place in the mobile-first movement so that there is a more integrated experience across mobile sites, full sites and apps. Today, you’re not just logging on to make a purchase – you’re researching and interacting with brand-driven content long before you become a customer.
Part of what is driving the mobile e-commerce revolution is cheaper tech, but cell phone service providers, such as T-Mobile, are also making, buying, and selling virtually without a laptop or desktop easier. Cheaper data plans, contract-free service agreements, and anytime upgrades like those offered by T-Mobile and a handful of other providers, have put mobile devices into the hands of more people who are using them where they once might have been using a traditional computer. The retail sector is scrambling to catch up, and then keep up, as a result.
First, the in-store experience is shifting, as brick-and-mortar stores become showrooms where customers can kick the tires before pulling the trigger online. The challenge of getting people into the store has meant some retailers are offering incentives like special in-store coupons or games that can only be accessed via mobile apps. Eddie Machaalani & Mitchell Harper, Co-CEOs of BigCommerce, have even predicted that with new apps consumers will be able to quickly scan items to purchase in store and have them automatically delivered – possibly within hours.
Second, the mobile shopping experience is becoming more personalized. Behavior tracking technology already lets retailers make product and price suggestions based on your mobile online activity. Soon you’ll save sizing information, color preferences, lifestyle, habits, and more for an automatically curated online product selection and automatic in-store discounts that accurately anticipate your needs. Consumers are driving personalization too, by doing more research (often with consumer apps) immediately before making in-store and online purchases to find exactly what they need and want.
Third, businesses that aren’t keeping pace with advancements in mobile computing are slowly losing out to those that have made an effort to stay ahead of the game. Mobile can no longer be an afterthought because customers are coming to expect an engaging online experience no matter how they’re viewing a site. Juicy 360 degree views of products, video reviews, blog posts, whitepapers, and other original content optimized for mobile; plus innovations like virtual fitting room apps are fast becoming a critical part of that experience for web savvy consumers.
E-commerce success has always been a moving target, but it could be that none of us expected the target to start shifting so quickly. Right now retailers and businesses are in a race against time and the natural inclination to stick with what’s always worked may be the downfall of many. It’s vital to remember that in this period of transition from desktop to mobile, what worked for decades may no longer work as of tomorrow.