Last reviewed 19 July 2019

It is expected that m-commerce on smartphones and tablets will eclipse the massive success of e-commerce over the next few years. Dave Howell assesses how businesses can ensure they don’t miss the next wave of digital commerce.

Commerce in your hand

According to research from Global Payment Trends report from Worldpay, m-commerce will overtake sales via desktop PCs by 2023. Indeed, across Europe, retailers with a shopping app now generate 44% of sales according to Criteo. What is clear for all e-commerce businesses is that the mobile channel is rapidly growing in importance and, will become dominant over the next decade.

"If you run a small business and online transactions make up a large proportion of your sales, most likely you should have a mobile-first site that is desktop friendly,” said Johann Godey, SEO Director, Vistaprint. “Unfortunately, most CMS tools are still desktop focused, providing a responsive mobile experience which doesn’t deliver the best value to your mobile visitors.

Godey continued: "If your business is local, it's a no brainer: you need a mobile-first website because 89% of customers are searching for local businesses on their smartphones according to Hubspot, so you simply must give your customers a mobile first experience. This is nothing new - Google understood as early as 2011 that the tables were turning. Larry Page said: ‘Computing is moving onto mobile. Even if I have a computer next to me, I'll still be on my mobile device.' It is now more necessary than ever to embrace the mobile world.”

M-commerce will also be aided by the arrival of 5G, which will deliver massive performance increases across mobile networks. Without bandwidth issues (5G could be up to 100 times faster than 4G) and with low latency (the speed at which information is delivered to a mobile device), m-commerce becomes a whole new experience for consumers.

AR (Augmented Reality), AI chatbots and VR (Virtual Reality) all become possible when fast wireless broadband becomes widely available. And personalised experiences will become a core differentiator across all retail sectors. Enhancing the shopping experience with new technologies is critical for the long-term profitability of your business.

Mobile commerce

How m-commerce could impact upon small businesses and their customers the core of the discussion Small Business Essentials had with Mathew Porter, Director of digital marketing agency Kumo. We began by asking how you would characterise the current state of m-commerce?

“Mobile commerce has seen somewhat of a revolution over the past five years. Large online retailers have focused increasing efforts on delivering an enhanced experience to mobile users due to the ever-increasing use of mobile and evolving shopping trends.

“This revolution has also extended to smaller online retailers who have found it easier to deliver a great m-commerce experience via platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce. These platforms have m-commerce experiences as part of their core offering that detracts the need for additional development to provide a great mobile commerce experience.”

Can small businesses simply make their existing websites ‘mobile friendly’ or should they invest in a totally new presence to take advantage of the opportunities that m-commerce offers?

“Many small businesses would historically have not had the additional resource to develop an m-commerce experience. However, with the emergence of responsive development techniques and hosted e-commerce platforms, a mobile-friendly experience is no longer out of reach for small businesses.

“Small businesses tend to have budget restrictions, so tend to favour hosted platforms or purchase off-the-shelf themes for their website platforms. Almost all themes for popular self-hosted and hosted platforms deliver fantastic m-commerce experiences via responsive development techniques that remove the requirement for a separate mobile site.”

What is your critical advice to small businesses that want to embrace m-commerce?

“Our advice would be to find a solution that provides a fantastic user experience across devices. This may be to find or have a new theme developed for their e-commerce platform, or even to migrate to one of the many hosted solutions that are now available on the market such as Shopify.”

Will m-commerce replace traditional e-commerce? Or will businesses have to maintain a presence across all channels?

“With Google favouring a stance of responsive websites over a separate desktop or mobile sites, the e-commerce and m-commerce sectors will essentially be a single, cohesive experience for the user across each device.

“Google’s ‘mobile first’ index also shows an expected shift to prioritise mobile due to its increasing use. However, the core values should be to deliver a fast, accessible and user-friendly experience across each device. Despite an ever-increasing focus on delivering a great mobile experience, the same factors should be adopted across all devices and channels.”

Mobile payments are clearly an integral component of the m-commerce ecosystem. Is there a clear winner yet that small business, in particular, should partner with?

“Many of the payment gateway providers have been focusing on an increasing amount of effort to deliver better mobile experiences. Some of those at the forefront include PayPal and GoCardless.

“However, providers such as SagePay rolled out responsive gateways is the past couple of years. In certain territories, Visa and MasterCard also have great mobile experiences via their payment gateway solutions. Small businesses should asses the costs per payment provider, ease of integration with their platform, along with the mobile experience each provides to find the best fit.”

What are the key trends in the m-commerce space at the moment?

“The biggest trend in the m-commerce space is the rise of mobile search, which has now surpassed desktop search according to Google's latest figures. With mobile outweighing desktop search, it’s imperative to deliver a great mobile experience. Another key trend is with user intent. Trends show that an increasing number of mobile users will undertake a local search on their phone, visit bricks and mortar store and then revisit a website to purchase.”

What does the future look like for m-commerce from a small business perspective?

“Mobile commerce is going to have an ever-increasing prominence for small businesses, and if they don't deliver a fast, user-friendly and usable experience, they will find themselves struggling in their respective marketplaces. M-commerce is here to stay and should not be neglected.

“The following m-commerce trends will be prevalent over the coming year:

  • Mobile speed and accessibility are crucial factor.

  • Mobile first indexing rollout by Google.

  • AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) emerging in their development and adoption.

  • Ad formats that support local search accompanying online shopping.

New age customers

A core group of consumers who are driving the massive expansion of m-commerce is, of course, the Millennials. A survey from CouponFollow found that over a third (36%) of these shoppers make all of their purchases on mobile devices, with 64% making half of all their purchases from Amazon.

The propensity to reach for their mobile devices when they want to buy something should be fully supported by your business. Understanding the omnichannel is the first step, but over the next decade, the mobile channel will become dominant. Here, supporting your customers with apps and online shopping experiences that have been optimised for mobile devices is paramount.

Vistaprint’s Johann Godey concluded: "If we consider the trend we're seeing today, we may see m-commerce replacing traditional e-commerce in 15 years or so. However, we shouldn't forget how quickly display technology is evolving. If in the future we can project the content of our mobile anywhere, we won't be able to differentiate mobile vs desktop, so this question would be redundant.

“One truth will remain: your site needs to provide the best possible user experience. Technology continues to provide opportunities to enhance the two drivers of growth: convenience and relevancy. M-commerce will profoundly evolve customer behaviour, by providing firstly, seamless interaction and processing of sales and secondly ultra customisation, providing a completely unique experience to each visitor.”

As part of their report into global m-commerce, Worldpay offered this advice:

  • Consider developing a branded app. We know that 71% of shoppers prefer apps over mobile browsers when shopping on their smartphone, and many say they won’t buy from a business that doesn’t have an app. It’s no longer enough to just have a mobile-optimised website – if you’re not prioritising a transactional app for your brand, you’re not putting your best foot forward.

  • Make it easy and use biometrics to speed up the journey. Shoppers are becoming increasingly familiar with the concept of fingerprint scanning and facial recognition, so they do not shy away from using these methods as a form of authentication. Biometrics place payments at the back of the user’s mind, giving them a faster and friction-free experience, making the payment seem ‘invisible’.

  • Identify the most popular payment methods in each territory in which you operate. There are considerable differences in payment preferences across the world, and alternative payment methods are gaining share over traditional credit and debit cards. There's no one-size-fits-all in any region so you'll need to understand the best options for your company.

M-commerce is, then, the next battleground all retailers will have to fight. The huge success of e-commerce on desktops will seem minuscule by comparison to the growth the m-commerce space will see. Consumers want to shop with convenience yet also have new experiences on their mobile devices. If your business can make the m-commerce seamless and a unique experience, your business will be a clear leader across the m-commerce space. The stakes are high, start your business’s transformation now.