Even five years ago, it would’ve been hard to imagine using your smartphone for much more than searching for fun facts or finding directions to a friend’s house. Small screens, slow data speeds, and non-optimized mobile websites caused most of us to scoff at the thought of shopping through our phones. With technology vastly improving since then, though, more and more people are comfortable with shopping via their handheld devices. In fact, 2016 is likely to be a turning point of sorts for mobile commerce. While mobile isn’t the dominant platform in e-commerce just yet, holiday shoppers are proving to retailers that it’s becoming increasingly important.
This boom didn’t occur overnight, of course. Consumers have been embracing smartphones and m-commerce in growing numbers in recent years:
- Over 70% of US adults said they owned a smartphone as of spring 2015, up from 35% in 2011;
- Smartphones surpassed desktops as the top source of e-commerce traffic in Q1 2016; and
- Over 75% of mobile users had made a purchase via their smartphone or tablet in the past six months as of September 2016.
Given this mounting evidence, it wasn’t surprising to learn that mobile devices accounted for 56% of e-commerce traffic over the Black Friday 2016 shopping weekend. Even with mobile visits to retail sites at an all-time high, though, we haven’t seen mobile sales follow a similar path. Part of that, it should be noted, is simply the result of an increase in multichannel shopping; nearly 60% of mobile users have checked out items on their phones before buying them in stores.
However, one factor above all is likely most responsible for the comparative lag in sales: The mobile shopping experience. At too many retailers, browsing and ordering by phone isn’t nearly as quick, smooth, or easy as doing so via desktop or laptop. In a recent study of mobile shopping app users:
- 38% of respondents voiced frustration with the size of mobile screens;
- 35% were annoyed by the prevalence of ads; and
- 32% complained about their inability to pinch and zoom in on product images; while
- Slow loading speeds, poor navigation, irrelevant push notifications, and checkout issues were each cited by at least 20% of respondents.
The mobile checkout flow is probably a bigger problem than that survey suggests. Smartphone users want a fast, frictionless flow, but they often have to fill out multiple fields on multiple pages, even to place just a $5 order. That’s a major reason for the 77% smartphone cart abandonment rate, which is higher than the 69% desktop rate. Those discarded mobile carts translate into billions of dollars in lost revenue for retailers.
To avoid missing out on future sales — and opportunities to build loyalty among the growing mobile audience— retailers need to optimize their sites for mobile users; that includes improving load speeds and incorporating easier payment methods. With the 2016 holiday season reconfirming the swift rise of m-commerce, retailers that can quickly, successfully cater to the needs and interests of mobile shoppers will be well-positioned to increase their customer bases in 2017 and beyond.