There is no doubt that in the very near future, mobile technology such as smartphones and tablets will be the dominant method of using the Internet. More and more people are spending an increasing amount of time on their mobile devices, and it is predicted that this will overtake laptop/desktop Internet usage by 2014. Mobile devices are most popularly used for gaming, social media, video viewing and basic online activities like checking the weather and getting from one place to the next, but what about online shopping?
Mobile usage in retail
There are well over a billion smartphones on the planet, and this number is quickly increasing. General Internet usage from smartphones is growing rapidly, and European mobile sales are increasing at a staggering rate each year.
At the moment, mobile devices are far less popular for eCommerce and online payment purposes than standard platforms and the majority of users still prefer to make online purchases using their laptops and desktops. While this does not quite accord with the rapid growth of smartphones for general Internet use and the mobile usage for retail is relatively small, there is still a substantial increase in mobile payment usage. In short, smartphones will inevitably become a significant part of online retail over the coming years.
Mobile optimization has arguably been far swifter in the U.S. Every major U.S retailer has now optimized their site for mobile use. Optimization of websites can either be tackled by employing responsive web design practices, which means the website adapts dependent on the device which the visitor is using, or the production of a separate mobile website.
Mobile shopping experience is crucial
The growth of retail on smartphones has not matched the rate of smartphone adoption. Why is this? A significant amount of respondents in mobile device studies say that the process is either too complicated, too difficult, doesn’t feel secure enough, or they would just rather use a laptop or a desktop. Users have a different set of expectations when they visit eCommerce sites on their smartphones, and websites that have not been optimized for mobile achieve a much lower conversion rate in comparison to sites that have been optimized.
As such, if online retailers want to be successful and achieve growth in their mobile sales, then they must optimize the shopping experience for mobile to capitalize on the growing number of users. The process needs to be easy and streamlined, the layout needs to be helpful and intuitive, and the system needs to not only be secure, but promote its security to increase confidence. Online retailers are quickly taking note of these issues with a large number of online businesses in 2013 committing to mobile improvement, focusing on critical aspects such as online credit card processing.
Online sites and applications
In addition to optimizing websites for mobiles retailers also need to consider mobile apps. Apps are also completely new territory for online retailers, and their growth has been much slower than their mobile web counterparts.
If people are distrusting of paying on an online mobile store-front, then they appear to be especially nervous of using mobile apps. However, digital wallets from payment processors, banks and online payment platforms may soon bring about a new era where users pay for everything online via an independent app. Indeed, this could be the true mobile payment convenience that we have been looking for.
The consumer still prefers to use their PCs or laptops for buying things online, or to go to a brick-and-mortar store, over a mobile device or tablet. But their popularity is increasing, and as software gets better and consumer attitudes change, it’s fair to assume that mobile devices will soon be highly popular and a highly significant revenue stream for online retailers.