Mcommerce sales are dropping - so why is the future of mobile still bright?

18th Aug 2016

The latest IMRG Capgemini Quarterly Benchmarking Report [1] revealed that online retail sales made through mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) fell for the first time in over six years. Despite this, I’m confident in saying that the future looks bright.

The cross channel experience

Whether it comes to online or traditional brick-and-mortar commerce, mobile will have an ever-increasing importance in the customer journey. While many retailers once felt threatened by customers using a smartphone in store, they now see it as an opportunity to engage with them across multiple channels to further enhance the customer experience.

Across the high-street, retailers are working hard to integrate mobile into a seamless overall experience. We can expect to see exciting developments in this area as retailers release comprehensive ‘in-store’ mobile modes, allowing smartphones to fully interact with in-store beacons and digital screens. This will mean retailers will be in the position to recognise individual shoppers via their mobile devices, and offer them a truly personalised experience whilst in-store, with bespoke offers and recommendations.

The journey to purchase

We’re also seeing some vast improvements made to online payment processes, which tend to be the root of many customer frustrations. We still see a fairly high level of check-out abandonment and lower conversion rates on mobile, with many customers still preferring to make their payments on a desktop. To overhaul the mobile shopping experience, retailers are already starting to prompt customers to download their app in order to provide them with a richer shopping experience. Retailers then deep-link customers - the ability to open the new app onto the same product page that was being browsed before download - to ensure an uninterrupted journey to purchase. Biometric technology will also become more prevalent for online shopping, meaning there is less of a need to find a computer to type in credit card details into – consumers can use their thumb print.

What’s more, with the introduction of Apple Pay to the UK in 2015 and Android Pay earlier this year, we're now starting to see smartphones being used as a payment method in stores across the country. These innovative financial technologies integrate instant payment methods between the traditional high street and m-commerce, and show that mobile will be integral to the retail experience both on and offline. While the proliferation of multiple channels can add obstacles towards eventual purchase, retail apps and mobile payments certainly have a part to play in improving the overall customer journey.

A mobile-first approach

When retailers first recognised the importance of mobile, their solution was to create a separate cut-down mobile site. However, with 65% of all website visits now carried out via mobile, retailers are now leading with a responsive, mobile-first approach to their website design.

There are already some next-generation companies providing some exciting clues to the future of m-commerce. One example of this is Depop, a mobile-only shopping app which, according to its CEO, was designed “with the mobile in mind and is social at its very core”. Similarly, apps like The Edit offer a Tinder-style ‘swipe right’ approach to fashion, while Snap Fashion enables consumers to identify items that they like in a Shazam-like format. With more and more companies focusing on the power of mobile, we can expect to see an increased number of mobile-only retail experiences in the future.

Rise of connected devices

In 1999 when Nokia was the market leader in the mobile phone market, the assumption was that the trend for ever-smaller phones would continue. We’ve come a long way since then, with the ‘phablet’ - the connected lovechild of a smartphone and tablet - now offering a larger screen to improve the mobile shopping experience.

In the future, we can expect to see an even more immersive shopping experience. One of the best examples is the use of virtual, augmented or mixed reality to allow the user to engage with the retailer wherever they might find themselves. Whether they’re in a physical store, or in the comfort of their own homes, customers can use these technologies to virtually try on clothes, test drive cars, or check out potential holiday destinations.  These technologies are likely to continue the current trend of using the customer’s mobile device as the ‘brains’ behind the immersive shopping experience. What’s more, with the smartphone becoming the single point of recognition and contact between the retailer and the customer, we can also expect to see other connected devices (through the Internet of Things) such as VR headsets, tablets and wearables interacting with the retailer via the customer’s smartphone.

With all of these aspects considered, it’s an exciting time to look ahead at the future of m-commerce. While there might be a slight drop in sales via mobile devices, there is a lot of innovative technology on the way to show that the future of mobile remains an exciting one. It’s important to also look beyond the domestic market, as forecasts suggest that over 80 percent of all economically active adults worldwide will own a connected smartphone with affordable data charges by 2025. The incredible opportunities within m-commerce certainly don’t end within our own borders.

[1] Sales dropped from 51.3% in Q4 2015 (Nov – Jan) to 49.6% in Q1 2016 (Feb – April)

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