Last updated: February 15, 2022 Mobile commerce IS commerce: Smartphones drive 50% of e-commerce sales

Mobile commerce IS commerce: Smartphones drive 50% of e-commerce sales


For those who don’t realize this yet: mobile commerce IS commerce, full stop.

In fact, it’s moot – meaning that shopping from your phone is so mainstream, you don’t need to call it anything other than simply “shopping.” 

There’s a valid argument in saying that mobile shopping is becoming popular partly because it’s demolished barriers that can discourage consumer engagement, making for fewer high-friction interactions.

Yet, a frictionless mobile commerce world has yet to become reality for so many. There remain barriers between checkout and mobile customer experience for a variety of sites. But those brands – and the technology that powers them – will either need to change – fast – or shutter entirely.

Why, and how, did we get to this steadfastly mobile-first era? It was the perfect storm, combining a global recession, US and China battles to be first, and much, much more. 

First things first: What is mobile commerce? 

So, what is mobile commerce? Mobile commerce is the use of a smartphone or other handheld wireless devices like tablets, cellphones, etc., to conduct commercial transactions online. These transactions including buying products and services, paying bills, and banking online.

Mobile commerce is also called m-commerce or mcommerce.

Here are a couple of facts around mobile commerce:

  1. The phrase “mobile commerce” was coined in 1997 by Kevin Duffey at the launch of the Global Mobile Commerce Forum. He called defined it as “the delivery of electronic commerce capabilities directly into the consumer’s hand, anywhere, via wireless technology.” 
  2. Mobile commerce is only growing, with global adoption of m-commerce soaring:

Statistic: Mobile shopping app user acquisition rate worldwide from 2017 to 2020 | Statista

Recession, resilience, and the rise of new technology 

It’s been more than a decade since the Great Recession, when there should’ve been a recalibration of what’s possible in terms of global economic growth. However, the Great Recession caused no such thing. 

“The world’s consumers displayed unexpected resilience, driven by technological advances that have unleashed a Golden Age of consumption, offering a worldwide bazaar of goods and services — open day and night — to anyone with a mobile phone,” explains PwC’s 2019 Global Consumer Insights Survey.

The spread of that technology became social in nature, and soon, social media took over as our prime source of news, information, and conversation.

It was only a matter of time until shopping hit its social media stride.

Mobile commerce is social commerce

Nearly 40% of the world’s population engages in some form of social media – therefore, social commerce is also on the rise – and social media has revolutionized consumer behavior. 

Today, social media advertising, influencer marketing (which most often takes place on mobile), and community building (via social channels) are the dominating customer acquisition strategies for leading brands. 

And for good reason. According to Retail Dive, 80% of Generation Z and 74% of millennials report that social media influences their purchases.

Take Glossier as a quick case study. 

“Glossier harnessed the power of user-generated content as part of a successful social media marketing strategy,” writes Springwise in their 9 Trends for Retail in 2020 report. “By reposting images, videos and product takes from their social media followers and offering other incentives like free product giveaways to brand loyalists, it has created an army of what are known as ‘Glossier Girls.’” 

Social media platforms from Instagram to Snapchat are merging the line between discovery and purchase, with the goal of making purchases easier. 

In 2018, Instagram launched a tag-feature on the platform that allows users to tap on items and navigate directly to a brand’s site to purchase. Snapchat has embraced shoppable augmented reality (AR). The app now hosts advertisements with AR lenses for users to virtually try on products.

And, consumers love it. 

A report from Piper Jaffray found that:

  1. 73% of Gen-Z shoppers in the U.S. want brands and retailers to connect with them about new products and promotions through Instagram
  2. Snapchat followed at 49%
  3. Email at 37% 
  4. Text messaging — an increasingly popular communication tool for DTC brands — at 34%

Mobile commerce examples: Payments are the last piece of the puzzle

With Amazon’s one-click purchase patent now available for public consumption, payment companies from Apple and Shopify to PayPal and Visa are fast-launching one-click payment solutions for consumers

These solutions reduce friction at the most important part of mobile commerce – the actual transaction.

By remembering your credit card information and easing input of that information into the system, checkout speeds are increasing to mere seconds – some with just a scan of your thumbprint. 

These payment options are slow to pick up speed in the United States, but they are already Gen Z’s favorite form of payment. In China, one-click payment options within WeChat and other mobile applications and social media platforms are widely used. 

“China already is outpacing the U.S. and much of the developed world in mobile payments, and a new digital currency that authorities say would be like cash and accepted everywhere would put China miles ahead in the currency space,” Dion Rabouin for Axios

According to the People’s Bank of China, mobile commerce payments grew 28x in five years. With the right technology in place across American social media platforms and mobile apps, you can expect similar growth. 

But which payments company will ultimately win out?

Certainly there will be a few:

  • ShopPay, Shopify’s option, seems to be a good one for the hundreds of thousands of independent brands using that technology
  • ApplePay works well for anyone with an iOS device
  • Amazon’s original version will continue to pay dividends for them

Which else will earn public trust and use? That’s yet to be seen. 

What comes next

Mobile can be leveraged as a catalyst for dynamic and personalized consumers experiences. To do so, brands need to think beyond their own mobile site or social media to elevate and incentivize super fans as micro-influencers within the community. Provide these brand fans with the tools to build an audience and monetize their expertise. 

This is the type of blended thinking you need to have for a smart brand strategy on mobile and beyond. It’s about brand and product discovery, as well as consumer elevation for the word of mouth marketers they are.

“Global brands are embarking on unconventional partnerships that blend worlds to create innovative retail discovery experiences for a young cohort of mobile-first and digital-native shoppers,” reads Wunderman Thompson’s Future 100 2020 report. “Successful retailers will meet Gen Z’ers and millennials wherever they are, whether it’s in a virtual game or on new streaming platforms.”

This is about community.

This is about everyone having the power.

After all, a decade ago, mobile phones were for the elite. Today, they democratize information, individuals, and brands.

How you leverage that democratization and empower your customers as fans on all mobile channels will define the future of your brand. 

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Tracey Wallace

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