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The rise in mobile commerce and how to make the most of it

POSTED: 1st November 2014
IN: Industry news
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There's no doubt about it: mobile commerce is here to stay. Smartphones have become an intrinsic feature of modern life and consumers are increasingly using the devices to browse and, more importantly, complete purchases online.

The mobile channel is key for online firms.

In today's fast-moving world, any business that fails to keep up with the latest technological trends and developments will be swiftly left behind.

So just how significant is mobile commerce, and how can you position your firm to make the most of this phenomenon?

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Mobile shoppers growing in confidence

Research has indicated that consumers are growing in confidence when it comes to using smartphones to complete entire purchases.

A study by YouGov and marketing agency Unique Digital found that the use of phones for 'search and purchase' has exceeded 'search only' for the first time.

Focusing on the use of apps for banking, purchasing insurance and buying travel products like hotels, flights and car hire, the survey found that 42 per cent of online consumers now use mobile devices to complete these tasks.

More than half (54 per cent) of respondents said they had booked a hotel using a smartphone or tablet. 

The convenience of apps has become a significant factor in shopping choices, outweighing traditional incentives such as brand familiarity and promotional offers, according to the findings. Price is still the main influencer in buying decisions, with 78 per cent of consumers citing it as a key consideration.

Phil Stelter, managing director of Unique Digital, said the research indicates that we are at the start of an "all-commerce age".

"The days of consumers just researching items on mobile devices are gone: purchases are being completed on the same device with increasing regularity now," he added.

Mobile overtakes desktop 'for first time ever'

In September 2014, online retail industry group IMRG released a study showing that mobile visits to shopping websites had overtaken desktop traffic for the first time ever.

Data in the IMRG Capgemini Quarterly Benchmarking Report revealed that over half (52 per cent) of all visits to these sites come from mobiles, while more than a third (36 per cent) of UK internet sales are now completed on a smartphone or tablet. This proportion rises to 40 per cent for clothing and apparel merchants.

Tina Spooner, chief information officer at IMRG, said these findings represent a "huge landmark" in the growth of mobile commerce.

She continued: "Considering that as recently as 2010 mobile visits to e-retail sites accounted for less than three per cent of traffic, this latest milestone represents staggering growth of 2,000 per cent over the past four years.

"These results clearly demonstrate that retailers' investment in mobile optimisation is encouraging consumers to adopt mobile devices as a shopping platform."

How can businesses make the most of this growth?

It's crucial for retailers and other businesses heavily reliant on online transactions to ensure they are well positioned to benefit from the growth in mobile commerce.

The first step is to ensure that your website is mobile-optimised, which will allow users of smartphones to view, read and navigate it easily. The process of tailoring webpages for mobile users could include placing more focus on key points, cutting down on detailed blocks of texts, removing elaborate graphics, introducing larger navigation buttons and showing a prominent search box.

Research published by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) in May 2014 revealed that 36 per cent of the UK's top 100 brand sites did not have mobile-optimised webpages. The proportion was down from 42 per cent in August 2013 and, in all likelihood, has since fallen further.

More than half (54 per cent) of websites across Europe are now mobile-ready, according to the report.

IAB head of mobile Alex Kozloff said: "It's great to see that the UK has experienced a ten per cent increase in mobile optimisation since August last year and that sectors such as automotive and retail are now really making the most of mobile."

Once you have a bespoke site for users of handheld devices, make sure you promote it and direct mobile browsers towards it.

Another step worth considering is creating an app for mobile shoppers. While this is a fairly involved process, which is likely to involve outsourcing work to a specialist agency, it could pay off in the long term. As the YouGov and Unique Digital research showed, apps have become a key part of the online shopping experience for many consumers.

A recent blog post from IT research and advisory firm Gartner underlined the importance of businesses analysing their customers' mobile behaviour. Consider factors such as how mobile devices are used (just for browsing or for completing purchases, for instance), and the importance of apps and optimised webpages for customer engagement.

Once you have a good understanding of consumer habits, you can adapt your mobile commerce strategy to suit your target audience, rather than expecting your customers to change for you.

As well as thinking about how this channel can benefit your business, consider how you can harness its potential to add value for your customers. Are there ways for you to save people time and money, possibly through mobile applications that showcase special offers and promotions, for instance?

Arguably, the most important thing of all when it comes to mobile commerce is to think creatively and be as bold and innovative as possible.

With industry trends, consumer tastes and technology evolving so rapidly, online businesses effectively have two choices: move forward or get left behind.

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