Many of us turn to our smartphones for amusement while waiting in line, riding public transportation, or relaxing on the couch. Some of that screen time is also spent shopping online — discovering new products or reordering essentials.
In fact, smartphones accounted for 72% of retail site visits in the U.S. in Q1 2023.
Retailers are responding by optimizing content for smaller screens and enabling one-click ordering and other conveniences that support on-the-go shopping.
Key elements of mobile commerce
Let’s take a closer look at how mobile commerce makes an impact across retail.
Users can browse ecommerce stores through a mobile-optimized website or dedicated mobile app.
Retailers accept multiple payment options, including online banking and mobile wallets such as Apple Pay, PayPal, or Google Pay. Shoppers can also make contactless payments at an in-store POS using virtual debit cards or credit cards.
Electronic commerce companies can provide location-specific deals, discounts, and promotions based on a user’s device location.
Businesses can target users with personalized ads and promotions based on their mobile behavior and preferences.
Users can purchase and store electronic tickets for events, travel, and entertainment on their mobile devices.
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Crafting an exceptional mobile commerce experience
M-commerce is synonymous with expedience and convenience — gearing digital interfaces toward those using smaller screens and who are typically pressed for time.
Prioritizing mobile-first design.
Mobile-first websites are optimized for small screens, with thumb-friendly pages that can be clicked or tapped with a thumb. Content is compacted to fit the screen width and limit scrolling using drop-down lists and image carousels.
Menus are accessed via a hamburger button and pared down to the essentials needed for online shopping.
Design interactions suitable for touchscreens, such as swipe gestures for flipping through a product catalog or pinch-to-zoom to view a product image in greater detail.
Offering a seamless checkout process.
Provide a swift, secure checkout process that minimizes the information users must enter. Guest checkout options let shoppers finalize purchases without mandatory account creation, reducing friction for first-time buyers who may not wish to register.
Provide simplified forms with address lookup and auto-fill features to minimize typing. Progress indicators show users the number of steps in the checkout process and provide visual feedback when they complete an action.
Mobile apps and websites generate vast repositories of customer behavioral data, including time spent on site, products viewed, item wishlists, and purchase history.
Let users set their preferences through account creation or filtered search results. This enables retailers to provide personalized mobile marketing.
Display dynamic content, such as banners and promotions, that change based on user behavior and preferences. Promote new arrivals or special offers that tickle the user’s fancy.
How mobile commerce can help boost the bottom line
Mobile shopping experiences provide opportunities for customers to engage with brands more often than they normally would, which can drive ecommerce sales.
Given that Americans check their phone 144 times per day, mobile ecommerce is an area ripe for investment.
Mobile omnichannel shopping.
Omnichannel shopping lets customers browse items on one device and complete a purchase on another. Persistent shopping carts and geolocation services ensure that when a customer visits the ecommerce platform from another device, they can access items previously added to cart and see the same personalized content across devices.
Mobile commerce is also an important source of store foot traffic, and vice versa. Data from Think With Google shows that 59% of shoppers like to visit stores to see or touch products even if they plan to buy online.
Location-based marketing delivers targeted digital content, promotions, and advertisements to users based on their device’s location.
For example, someone might see an ad for a local music festival or real estate listings in their neighborhood. Geo-targeted content is meant to resonate with the user’s current situation.
Here’s how it works:
Geofencing: Define virtual boundaries around a specific area, such as a store, shopping mall, or event venue. When a user’s mobile device enters or exits these boundaries, they receive targeted notifications or offers.
Beacon technology: Beacons are small, Bluetooth-enabled devices placed in public locations. They transmit signals to nearby mobile phones, allowing businesses to deliver messages, promotions, and other content directly to users' smartphones when in proximity to a beacon.
Location-based notifications: Businesses can send SMS or push notifications for promotions, discounts, event details, or reminders to users' devices when near a specific location.
Local search: Ecommerce businesses can encourage users to check in at their physical locations on social media, offering rewards, discounts, or loyalty points as incentives.
Improved customer engagement.
A companion mobile app or mobile-friendly website can encourage customers to engage with a brand more often. Send timely push notifications to notify customers about promotions, new arrivals, abandoned carts, and special events. Implement in-app messaging to provide live chat support for mobile shoppers.
Experiment with augmented reality to provide a virtual “try before you buy” experience, letting users visualize furniture items in their space or see what a pair of glasses or shade of eyeshadow would look like on them.
Mobile commerce challenges to keep in mind
Designing digital interfaces for mobile devices means accounting for their inferior computing power and signal variability. Because of these challenges, mobile commerce may not always be the best option.
Security and privacy concerns.
Mobile devices introduce a host of security concerns that don’t apply to desktop computers.
For instance, users may connect to unsecured public Wi-Fi networks on their smartphones, exposing their data to possible interception. Mobile devices are also susceptible to loss or theft, thus exposing the owner’s personal data.
Here’s how to secure your customer’s personal data on mobile devices:
Strong authentication: Encourage users to create unique passwords and enable multi-factor authentication. Enable them to sign out remotely in case their device is stolen.
Encryption: Ensure sensitive payment information is encrypted during transmission and storage.
App permissions: Avoid requesting unnecessary permissions, such as location tracking, unless they are integral to the app’s function. Disable these permissions when the app is not in use.
Security updates: Regularly patching a mobile app or website prevents cyber attackers from exploiting unknown vulnerabilities.
Ensuring speed and performance.
Apps and websites are more likely to crash on mobile devices for reasons outside of your control. Mobile devices have less processing power, memory, and storage than desktop computers, leading to slower rendering of complex web pages.
High-resolution images and rich media content showcase products in their best light. However, these assets can prolong page load times on mobile devices. Apps that rely on location data, such as ridesharing apps, can introduce additional delays if GPS signals are weak.
Navigating app store regulations.
Flouting these regulations can result in app rejection, removal, or other penalties.
App store guidelines: Each platform has rules regarding content, functionality, design, and user experience.
User privacy and data collection: Clearly communicate how user data will be collected, used, and protected. Comply with relevant data protection regulations.
In-app purchases: App stores have guidelines regarding payment processing, subscription models, and price transparency.
User experience: Avoid excessive ads, pop-ups, and intrusive notifications that could lead to negative reviews.
Age ratings: If your app is age-restricted, ensure you correctly set age ratings and implement content restrictions.
App store metadata: Provide accurate app descriptions, titles, and keywords.
The future of mobile commerce
Mobile devices introduce opportunities for ecommerce retailers to connect with audiences in novel ways, from hands-free purchases to social shopping, and more.
Social media platforms are ideal conduits for users to discover new products and brands through posts, stories, videos, and influencer recommendations.
Social commerce lets users complete purchases within a social app through shoppable social media posts. When a user taps an item, they’ll see a price tag and basic product information. Shoppers can buy products without leaving the app, reducing friction between discovering a product and completing a purchase.
Brands can repost user-generated content to provide social proof or engage with audiences via live-streaming to offer time-limited promotions or generate interest in a new product.
Voice-facilitated purchases are on the rise. In 2021, 60% of online shoppers in the U.S. said they regularly bought items via smart home voice assistants.
Speaking is often faster than typing, so purchases can be made quickly. Most smartphones feature built-in voice assistants, enabling users to inquire about products hands-free.
Voice assistants can send links to product pages matching the user’s query, enabling them to complete the purchase on their mobile device.
Historically, users started a webchat when they had a complaint or couldn’t find something. Today’s sophisticated mobile chatbots are like stand-in shopkeepers who can forecast what products might interest the shopper, process orders, and accept mobile payments.
Chatbots can also answer product-related questions or recommend complementary or higher-tier products.
First patented by Amazon in 1999, one-click ordering is a simplified checkout process that uses a shopper’s existing payment and shipping information associated with their account to complete purchases in one click.
One-click ordering is particularly useful for customers who frequently purchase the same items, making the reordering process almost instantaneous. Mobile users who face limited time and screen space likely can benefit most from this simplicity.
Videos can grab attention more than text or static images, leading to higher engagement rates. Brands can showcase their products in action or answer questions via live-streamed Q&A sessions.
Video content on social media can be an effective way to engage audiences on mobile devices. Businesses offering complex technical solutions or lifestyle products can host webinars or post video tutorials to position themselves as industry experts.
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The final word
Mobile commerce is rapidly evolving and shaping the way we shop and interact with brands. The focus is on customer experience optimization featuring mobile-first design principles, expedited checkout processes, and real-time recommendations to drive user engagement.
One of the main benefits of mobile commerce is the opportunity for business owners to boost retail sales through omnichannel shopping, mobile banking and digital wallets, and location-based marketing.
However, mobile commerce brings unique challenges, including security and privacy concerns, and navigating app store regulations. Businesses must safeguard customer data and be transparent about how the data is used for personalization.