by Christian von Hammel-Bonten
November 26, 2015

M-commerce is changing the way customers shop, both online and in stores. That’s good news for retailers

Data doesn’t lie: More and more customers landing on e-commerce sites are getting there via smartphones and tablets. In the third quarter of 2015, about 50 percent of e-commerce traffic came from mobile devices, while in the first quarter of 2014 that number was just 25 percent, according to e-commerce analytics firm Custora.

Even though European consumers still make more purchases on desktops than on their mobile devices, m-commerce is growing at a faster rate than overall e-commerce. The mobile retail commerce revenue is expected to double from 2015 to 2018, the Statistics Portal Statista shows. Shopping is on the rise, and it’s rapidly transforming the retail world – both online and in stores.

Mobile devices will turn online browsing into buying

In the future, websites optimized for mobile devices will play an increasingly important role in turning online browsing into purchasing. Currently, 20 percent of Internet Retailer’s top 500 have adopted responsive design websites since last year – a sizable increase from the 9 percent using responsive design in 2014, as marketing firm Pure Oxygen Labs reported. But there is still the problem that many e-commerce retailers simply shrink their web sites to fit on smaller smartphone and tablet screens. This provides anything but an enjoyable mobile shopping experience, as photos and links are usually too small to see properly.

Going forward, online retailers can gain a competitive advantage by tailoring their web sites to each device, whether it’s a mobile option like a smartphone or tablet, or a PC. This is true even for companies that think their customers are shopping on one channel only. A digital analytics benchmark survey from IBM shows that people often search and browse for items on multiple devices – smartphones, tablets, and PCs – before ultimately making a purchase on one of them.

Shoppers are likely to use m-commerce for impulse purchases

More and more customers prefer to make purchases, for things like books, electronic products and clothing, on a smartphone. Through highly personalized discounts sent directly to customers’ smartphones, m-commerce is reaching people – and their wallets – anytime and anywhere.

In order to stay in the game, e-commerce must find new ways

Mobile devices are also affecting online retailers’ ability to compete with brick-and-mortar stores. For many years, lower prices and larger inventories gave e-commerce an uncontested advantage over the offline world. But now, with more customers using smartphones and tablets to compare prices and products in stores, many brick-and-mortars have started to offer price match guarantees, automatic ordering for out-of-stock products, and other in-store services. In order to stay in the game, e-commerce must find new ways to offer added value to customers.

For example, in the future shoppers will be able to receive an in-store offer on their mobile device for a product they had looked at earlier on the e-commerce site. This is known as omni-channel retail and it provides an unprecedented level of integration between m-commerce, e-commerce, and brick-and-mortar stores. It’s also the key to understanding the true impact of mobile devices on the e-commerce market: because analysts still expect more purchases to occur on PCs than mobile devices for the foreseeable future. The most meaningful transformation will be how smartphones and tablets connect with and complement customers’ present day retail experience.