What is mCommerce?
With both cost and convenience impacting whether customers shop in-store or online, delivery is one of the most important parts of the ecommerce experience.
mCommerce, or to give it it’s full title, mobile commerce, is simply the buying and selling of goods and services on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. mCommerce is a form of online shopping (usually known as eCommerce) but means that shoppers can access online shopping platforms without needing to use a traditional desktop computer.
The term mCommerce includes a range of shopping and monetary transactions undertaken on mobile devices.
Examples of mCommerce include mobile banking, using a digital wallet such as Android Pay or Apple pay, as well as purchases made in-app or on mobile optimised websites.
According to a recent Global Payment Trends report from Worldpay, mCommerce sales are growing at an average of 16 per cent every year, well outpacing desktop sales growth of five per cent.
The report goes on to predict that growth in mCommerce will increase to 19 per cent annually in the next five years, bringing the market’s total value to $2.29 trillion (£1.77 trillion) by 2022.
Adobe Analytics’ research of US shopping behaviour over the 2018 festive period, determined that just over a third of online Black Friday sales were completed on smartphones — up from 29.1% just one year earlier.
What is the difference between eCommerce and mCommerce?
mCommerce is, to a large extent, a natural progression of the eCommerce boom seen in recent years, reflecting the developments made in mobile technology and the ‘mobile first’ way of working that many users and businesses now adopt. eMarketer predict that, by 2021, mobile eCommerce sales are expected to account for 54% of total eCommerce sales.
Whilst eCommerce introduced consumers to more competitive pricing and a wider variety of products, mCommerce enables these same consumers to reap these benefits without the need to use a desktop computer. mCommerce has also introduced and enhanced industries beyond the capabilities of eCommerce such as e-tickets, mobile banking, contactless payments and mobile based loyalty schemes.
The terms eCommerce and mCommerce are often used interchangeably but, it’s important to recognise that successful mCommerce is not a given just because an organisation has seen successes in their eCommerce operations. New thinking and approaches need to be embraced in order to harness the possibilities presented by mCommerce.
Whilst very few successful online retail organisations have a website that is not accessible on mobile devices it doesn’t automatically mean that they thrive in the mCommerce arena.
More importantly, our use of mobile is influencing our buying decisions even when we are in a physical brick-and-mortar store.
One-third of our decision to purchase is influenced by looking up additional information on a product via our mobile device.
The mobility and convenience offered by an mCommerce experience lies at the heart of why many consumers favour a mobile experience. A consumer can make a quick decision wherever they are and be able to complete a purchase, a money transfer or collect and use loyalty points, often without referring to a physical payment or loyalty card. With the addition of messaging services and chatbots, organisations are also able to continue their interactions with their customers through the channel they originally chose.
Heavy mCommerce users are able to leave their wallets to gather dust, knowing that they can buy online and also pay via online or contactless methods (even when using traditional purchase channels) on their mobile smartphone. mCommerce has propelled the use of ‘one-click’ checkouts and reduced the requirement to manually enter your credit card details and shipping details the first time you shop at a new online store.
Knowledge of the location of a prospective customer can be hugely beneficial both to online retailers and the customer themselves. If a retailer can know the exact location of a shopper, they can provide location-specific content, discounts and personalised recommendations.
With location tracking capabilities of eCommerce limited due to the non-portability of devices, mCommerce apps, through GPS technology, Wi-Fi, and so on, can deliver location information about the potential shopper.
Security, an essential part of any online transaction, is simplified in mCommerce. Consumers are still often apprehensive of sending their credit card numbers over the internet. Measures like two-factor authentication and biometric authentication (via retina scans, face ID, or fingerprints) available through mCommerce can offer further reassurance to shoppers.
When looking holistically at mCommerce it’s clear that, whilst it builds on the wider benefits of eCommerce, the behaviours and trends that it enables go far beyond a simple evolution to serve as a platform for new and growing industries and services.
The role of mCommerce in retail
Aside from the purchase itself the most valuable asset for a retailer is the data they collect. In terms of the ability to communicate with their customer, collect payment and ensure a successful on-time delivery, the quality of data collected through the checkout is crucial.
Online retailers understand the crucial link between data quality and successful deliveries.
Many consumers buying on mobile devices will be time poor, lacking attention, and won’t be prepared to look or click for the information they need. If delivery advice and costs are not readily available, they will be quick to abandon their baskets and go elsewhere.
Mobile wallets available on smartphone devices make it easy for online shoppers to securely store their credit card details, shipping address, and more.
Shoppers benefit from avoiding the need to enter all their information again, which can be especially awkward on mobile phones. Retailers can be more confident in the data they collect, knowing it is less liable to human error.
Contactless payment options and mobile wallets also mean online retailers are able to offer shoppers the chance to make use of a full range of payment methods. When they reach the checkout, customers are simply able to select the mobile wallet they are registered with and authenticate using biometric security or a PIN.
There are many mobile wallets available, though some have geographical restrictions. When making a payment in a physical location, customers can place their phone close to a supported terminal to validate and transmit payment, instead of swiping their debit or credit card.
Trends in mCommerce
Knowing the trends in mCommerce to pay attention to
mCommerce has certainly become one of the leading, most exciting and fast developing, areas of commerce in recent years. As a relatively young part of the retail mix, mCommerce continues to evolve, providing new opportunities for online retailers and service industries.
CED Commerce recently revealed that, in 2019 user penetration in the digital-commerce segment is at 56.2% that is expected to grow in coming years. The number of users is expected to grow to over 3 billion in the next 3 years.
Indeed, one-third of our decision to purchase is influenced by looking up additional information on a product via our mobile device.
Artificial intelligence (AI), mirroring of human intelligence processes by machines that can think, learn and respond, is one significant growth area and now features across sectors as diverse as healthcare, real estate, home-wares and more.
A report by Business Insider has recently proposed that around 85% of customer interactions will have the AI as next level communication by as soon as 2020.
With large organisations using data to determine the buying patterns of different users they can re-target users that were interested in previous campaigns and then create customised messages for segmented target audiences.
AI has also bolstered the ability to interpret data around the best time to connect and engage with consumers by understanding how and when users respond to push notifications. When a notification is opened by a user, it can notify the sender. The mCommerce business can make further decisions. AI makes this process seamless and therefore easier for digital businesses to gather data and target users at the right time, thus increasing open rates.
Beyond engaging with audiences AI also supports the analysis of buying patterns by employing algorithms to ascertain if a user will like a product or not.
A further technological advancement impacting mCommerce is that of augmented reality (AR) with the likes of popular homeware retailer Ikea utilising AR apps. These online retailers are using AR to help their shoppers visualise how their Ikea furniture will look in situ within their homes, we can see the further uses of mCommerce in the sales process.
Optimising website for mobile use is, of course, nothing new. Indeed, it’s rare to find an eCommerce site that doesn’t at least attempt to cope well on mobile.
The growing trend here sees online retailers going one step further and moving to mobile-first, or mobile-unique experience. In these cases, a mobile site is created specifically for the mobile user and can therefore be entirely different than what the desktop version looks like.
mCommerce has also been instrumental in the ability of retailers to easily extend their reach globally. The number of cross-border mobile ecommerce orders has increased globally by more than 43% since 2017 according to Global-e.
Global-e tracked the growth of cross-border orders from UK retailers across more than 200 international markets from 2017 to 2018 revealing 33% of the cross-border orders were made on mobile devices, compared to 23% in 2017.
In a world of global commerce ironically the trend which is most evident is that of locally tailored content and approaches. Whilst seeking to conquer global markets retailers must tailor their approaches to the different markets in which they play.
Just as global consumers are exploring eCommerce on different devices, they’re also trying out more and more new ways to pay. Global research from Zion Market Research shows that digital-wallet market share is expected to rise by about 32% between 2017 and 2022.
Adding digital wallet capability to an mCommerce store is increasingly seen as best practise and one that helps capture more mobile users at checkout by offering an easy, secure way to pay in a single click. For example, allowing mobile shoppers to pay with PayPal leverages a trusted brand name while eliminating the need for shoppers to enter credit card details and shipping addresses again.
One mCommerce trend that can be overlooked but is certainly growing in importance is the use of mCommerce for B2B industries.
According to the recent research from Google and BCG, mobile research influences over 40% of revenue for leading B2B organisations and that half of the search queries are made on smartphones with that number set to grow to 70% by 2020.
Future mCommerce trends to watch out for?
Imagine walking down the street and spotting someone wearing a pair of green trainers that look just like what you’ve been looking for. Chances are that the next thing you do would be to get out your mobile and search ‘green trainers’. Well, apps are emerging that go beyond this, take a picture of the trainers and tell consumers which online shopping store is selling them for the lowest price.
Contextual advertisements, a form of targeted advertising on websites in mobile browsers, are still at an experimental stage but show huge potential. The advertisements themselves are selected and served by automated systems based on the identity of the user and the content displayed. In coming years, these will likely be a part of all advertising collateral in the mCommerce toolkit.
The impact of voice search
Many mCommerce stores now use voice search engines to make searching through voice easier. These search engines speed up the process of scanning all available content to find the most suitable answer.
Keywords continue be crucial in driving organic traffic to websites and apps. But as people increasingly rely on voice technologies to search for products online, natural language queries have become an essential part of the eCommerce system. Google prefers content that include simple, natural language.
Voice search engines have sprung up, offering mCommerce retailers the chance to integrate voice search technology into their mobile apps and websites.
The voice queries are passed through the machine learning algorithms and then translated into accurate text that brings out the text results. With these search engines using unsupervised machine learning, they become smarter with every search made by users.
Adding voice capability to mobile website and apps can keep retailers ahead of the growing use of voice search, particularly amongst younger mCommerce customers. Some would even argue you now need to consider a voice first approach to create the ultimate retail experience.
Consumers who rely on voice search are likely to have growing expectations around voice search capability. Online retailers will need to be mindful to include more functionality via voice search. The opportunities might include address lookup or delivery requirements by voice, receive order updates or even payment authorisation managed by voice control. Retailers must continue to build voice search technology into their mCommerce experience at every opportunity.
What is the best mCommerce solution?
Navigation and mCommerce
The way people move around a mobile webpage and overall website differs significantly from the way users interact with a desktop site. To reflect this difference and deliver on UX aspirations online retailers should consider their navigation mechanisms carefully.
On mobile sites users often swipe the entire page (top to bottom) before making a decision. It’s therefore important that navigation is present at the bottom of the page so that the user can quickly move through the site as they wish.
There is a natural tendency amongst mobile users to “return home”. This suggests some uncertainty about mobile site’s ability to provide suitable navigation. Looking closely at the analytics of your mobile site will provide key insights into which pages people tend to pass through. These pages should be clearly linked internally on your mobile site.
It’s also worth knowing that mobile users love an icon and are more likely to click on a button that contains an icon than one which is text alone. mCommerce is a visual affair and use of simple icons and graphics can lead people easily through your site or app.
The best way to show menus on mobile phones is generally thought to be with a vertical stack, rather than horizontal menu bars. Only use the top-level categories on the home page. You’ll have to think carefully whether to show expanded categories and sub-categories in the second level of navigation.
Image navigation isn’t favoured for mCommerce. It can be confusing because images don’t necessarily look like links unless they’re product thumbnails or buttons. Graphics also add to page load time, a critical factor in the success of a mobile site or app.
Of course, page load speed has been a factor in search rankings for much longer than mobile friendliness.
Google started using a mobile-first index back in July 2018, meaning that websites or storefronts that are mobile optimised, will organically get preference in the ranking algorithm.
Organisations only need to look to Google’s initiative around Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), aimed at helping companies speed up web pages, and the presence of mobile page speed as a factor in Google’s search algorithm to understand that speed is high on the search agenda.
But how your site ranks in Google isn’t the only reason to pay attention to mobile page speed.
The time taken for a site to initially load is the one factor that is proven to have the biggest impact on bounce rate (that dreaded statistic that tells us that users have left a website with no further interaction). Google’s research found that bounced sessions load times were 55% slower than non-bounced sessions.
On mobile devices users are likely to be even more impatient than on a desktop and may be connected over a slow 3G connection. Minimising load speed becomes a crucial UX proof point.
The great news is that there are a host of quick win opportunities to speed up your site.
In order to understand where site speed can be improved it’s important to begin with an analysis of where your mCommerce site is now.
Google’s own site speed test is easy to use and provides practical solutions to improve site speed.
One common speed inhibitor is images. Whilst mCommerce sites certainly benefit from the use of high-quality images, optimisation is crucial to reduce the file size of images to maintain load speed.
Many of the developments we’ve already discussed play roles in speeding up the overall site and mobile checkout process. Both one-page checkouts and digital wallets (such as Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, PayPal One Touch) have improved mobile conversion by up to 10%.
Making a purchase from an online retailer you haven’t dealt with before (on this platform) necessarily involves an element of form-filling, which is an inconvenience at any time, but can be particularly tedious on a mobile device.
Not only can form-filling be long winded but, when done on the move in an mCommerce setting, it can be inaccurate. When completing forms on a mobile, users can be more prone to errors than when using desktop devices in a more structured setting.
Not only is the mobile experience of completing forms not always ideal for users it can also carry significant impacts for the for retailers as data passes through an organisation and departments (from logistics to finance) experience the knock-on consequences that accompany poor data quality. The costs of poor data capture include struggles to make deliveries, collect payments and maintain communications.
With mCommerce, integrations matter. Making processes within the customer journey easy is what it’s all about. Using tools like Loqate’s address look up can reduce the time spent by a user seeking to know if delivery to their address is possible and understand the associated costs. It’s equally as valuable to the retailer who seeks to ensure timely on-time delivery.
Geolocation and address capture
In Loqate’s survey of 500 UK consumers asking them about their mobile shopping habits the biggest frustration was around the speed of address entry.
Geolocation and address lookup technology is one way to ensure your users are able to speed through the process of address entry, enabling users to find their address using postcode lookup or type ahead address verification. By implementing this kind of technology on a site or app, consumers avoid lengthy form fills and retailers benefit from accurate address capture from the beginning of a customer relationship.
Address verification software from Loqate is built with the knowledge that your customers are multi-device users. Our real-time address verification service is built to work on any internet enabled device, from computers and tablets to smartphones and EPoS kiosks.
Using SMS messaging in mCommerce
Some brands are taking an even more innovative look at mobile as a payment channel where orders can be made by text message.
As mCommerce growth continues, brands are rethinking the way in which they communicate with customers and how they can get personal. An increasing number of online stores have started using SMS messaging with the aim of driving customer engagement.
mCommerce lacks an element of human interaction that you would naturally get in retail and SMS is now being recognised as both a practical and inexpensive way to overcome this. It’s important to use messaging to convey the tone you wish to set with your customers and deliver the personal touch that digital channels can hinder.
Of course, success of SMS communications as a channel is heavily dependent on successful capture of mobile phone numbers. Real-time phone number verification ensures all customer phone numbers are valid and that you can confidently contact them.
Deciding between a Mobile App and Mobile Website
Online retailers have been talking about and developing apps from soon after Apple and Google first launched their app stores.
And while for some businesses there certainly is value in having a branded app, there is still some doubt over whether all business stands to benefit from having a branded app.
Mobile browser audiences continue to grow quicker than app audiences. This, combined with the cost of separate app development, suggests that smaller organisations might be better to invest their time and money developing better mobile browser experiences than developing costly separate apps.
There are times when a mobile app definitely helps, especially when it offers more than a mobile website can. Apps, developed well, can bring customers back for updates, offers and account information through push notifications.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are a newer concept that has seen incredible adoption by big brands over the past couple of years.
PWAs are a type of mobile app delivered through the web, built using common web technologies which can work offline, deliver push notifications, and don’t require users to install the web apps via an app store. Their use could prove to be of more value than simply repackaging your website as a mobile app.
The mCommerce checkout experience
Why do consumers abandon a mobile checkout?
The culmination of any mCommerce journey of course is the checkout experience. It’s the make or break moment from a UX perspective, presenting the greatest opportunity and greatest risk of the end-to-end eCommerce interaction. In a recent study comScore discovered that 19.3% of customers reported difficulty navigating mobile checkouts as a reason for abandoning a shopping basket on mobile.
As with most things in life, simplicity reaps rewards at the checkout. Mobile checkouts should be as concise as possible, focussing on gathering the information pertinent to the sale, delivery and customer management only. The best checkout experiences often break down forms into separate pages or steps, as well as using buttons instead of text links. These mechanics can make it easier for customers to navigate on smaller screens.
Why design matters
The ergonomic interaction of mobile users is very different to desktop users. The best of mCommerce checkouts understand the importance of the way users touch the screen, how easy it is to move a thumb across different parts of the screen and therefore where, on a page, to position buttons and links that you wish users to access easily. A fundamental mobile interface design principle is making your targets big and easy for users to tap with their fingers and thumbs (which runs contrary to desktop mouse ‘click’ conventions).
Whilst many mCommerce users seek a purely mobile digital interaction there are times when the ‘real world’ is still a necessity. Whether to answer last minute queries or take orders from shoppers that do not want to necessarily checkout online, retailers are wise to have clickable phone numbers at the checkout pages in a bid to ease shopper anxiety and improve mobile checkout conversion.
Making the most of mobile
The reason that a customer is choosing the mCommerce experience over traditional physical shopping or even desktop eCommerce is that of convenience. It pays to that mobile devices are, of course, portable, and there are different situations in which customers will use them to access websites and pass through the checkout.
Understanding the location of a user is one way in which online retailers can speed up the mobile checkout process (and support the drive for data accuracy). Loqate’s geolocation [link to https://www.loqate.com/en-gb/address-verification/geolocation/] feature, using single-tap technology, eliminates the need to enter an address, provided the user is at their desired delivery location at the time of order, and provides a solution that is easy for businesses to integrate.
Aside from location there are other possibilities that might support like detecting if a user is literally on the move or not, if the battery low etc.
So where does this leave mCommerce?
Findings from Per DynamicYield suggest that only 12% of consumers find shopping on the mobile web convenient, leaving considerable room for improvement and an opportunity to rise above competitors in this fast-changing channel.
With desktop sales still converting 2 or 3 times more than mCommerce it’s important to remain mindful of the continuing role of wider eCommerce. mCommerce solutions must be implemented as part of your digital sales strategy and not the holy grail at the expense of desktop.
Offering services like click and collect, connects online and offline channels and provides a convenient option for customers.
By optimising your online store for mobile, you can prepare to offer a better omnichannel experience for current and potential customers. Keep security and user experience top of mind and watch your mCommerce function flourish alongside your eCommerce business in the years to come.