It’s finally happened. Smartphones have edged out desktop computers, 45.1 percent to 45 percent, as the customer’s device of choice when shopping online, according to new statistics from e-commerce software provider Demandware. And that number is expected to increase significantly by the end of next year, with Demandware predicting smartphones will account for 60 percent of e-commerce sales by the end of 2017.
One of the reasons for the rise in smartphone shopping is that retailers can reach consumers anytime and anywhere. Americans carry their smartphones with them everywhere – to work, to school, to the gym, for a night on the town, even into the bathroom – providing opportunities for retailers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Retailing no longer fits into a 10 AM to 9 PM structure, nor is it limited by geography – as long as a retailer has a mobile presence, any customer with a credit card can purchase merchandise from virtually any store in the world, right from the palm of her hand.
However, there are some hurdles merchants need to overcome to ensure they are getting the most out of their mobile platforms, such as lengthy checkout times and payment procedures, either of which can cause frustration on the part of customers and cause them to abandon their orders before completing them. While not limited to mobile, this issue is a bigger concern than with other forms of online retailing, as mobile checkout completion is 11 percent lower than from all other devices combined.
While e-commerce of all types accounted for 92.8 billion in the first quarter of 2016, which is about 7.8 percent of total retail sales, the adoption of mobile shopping has been even more rapid, and its quick ascent has caught many retailers off guard. Sales from mobile devices more than doubled between 2013 and 2015, accounting for $7.00 of every $10.00 spent on mobile. Demandware projects shoppers will place more orders on their phones than on any other device by the end of 2016, with smartphones further outpacing computers for online orders by 13 percent by the end of 2018. Mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Android Pay and PayPal are helping drive this trend, as are the phones with larger screens (“phablets”), and better web-browsing capabilities, all of which lead to a better and easier shopping experience for the customer. Another advantage is more online retailers or e-tailers, are optimizing their sites for viewing on mobile devices, which is making product viewing and selection easier for consumers on the smaller screens.
This could give rise to some retailers making the decision to go mobile-only, as opposed to mobile and online. Nearly three-quarters – 71 percent – of U.S. consumers will own a smartphone by 2019, and for many of those consumers, their smartphones will be their only gateway to the internet. Stores like women’s and children’s retailer Rainbow have already begun to take advantage of this new era in retailing, by concentrating on enhancing its mobile strategy. The retailer, which has 1,100 stores, says while it has recently introduced an app, mobile accounts for 70 percent of its e-commerce traffic, which is up from 50 percent just two years ago. It is not impossible to think that other retailers will experience similar mobile sales increases in the coming years, as the use of smartphones becomes more ubiquitous.
Mobile is poised to become the new face of e-commerce, particularly as one-click payment options and integrated mobile shopping carts become more advanced. As the statistics mentioned above show, it is certainly well on its way to ensuring that desktop computer shopping will move aside for better technology and become obsolete, like the dial-up sound your computer made when your home phone was connecting to AOL.