Shoppers are using smartphones and tablets to make purchases and research products and prices before making a purchase, meaning that mobile may be an important channel for both earning sales and engaging potential customers. Yet many, if not most, small and mid-sized businesses have not prepared their website or their marketing for mobile customers.
“Mobile is not an option. If you don’t have your website tuned for mobile devices, you are missing major sales opportunities. Consumers are not only using these devices to get information whenever they are and wherever they are, but also to buy,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni at a recent conference.
In spite of warnings and encouragement from experts like Fulgoni, the vast majority of businesses have really done nothing to optimize their websites or business practices for customers using mobile devices. As recently as last year, vSpash’s ongoing DigitalScope study found that 98 percent of small and mid-sized businesses had not optimized their sites for mobile visitors and were not ready to sincerely do business over the mobile Internet.
What follows are four facts that may encourage small and mid-sized business owners and managers to again consider the mobile channel.
Fact 1: Mobile Devices are Ubiquitous
More than nine out of ten American adults have a mobile device, according to a June 2013 report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Of these, between 55 and 58 percent use a smartphone, capable of viewing websites or running mobile applications. This means that roughly half of the U.S. adult population could make an ecommerce purchase from anywhere they have a mobile phone connection.
Pew also reported that as of May 2013, about 34 percent of American adults owned a tablet computer like the popular iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab. This data is significant not simply because more than one-in-three adults in the United States owns a tablet, but also because tablet ownership had nearly doubled between April 2012 and May 2013 and because 56-percent of American households with an income of at least $75,000 per year have tablets, again according to Pew.
This data implies that there is a large enough mobile audience for ecommerce business owners and marketers to want to consider this channel.
Fact 2: Some Shoppers use Mobile Exclusively
Nearly a third of monthly visitors to a typical online retail website use mobile devices like smartphones and tablets exclusively, according to an August 2013 article from comScore vice president Andrew Lipsman.
“Not only is retail one of the highest penetration activities across all digital media platforms today,” Lipsman wrote, “but in June it actually had a higher penetration within smartphones (90 percent) and tablets (91 percent) than on desktop computers (78 percent). Given its relative importance on mobile platforms, retailers should not be surprised then to see an increasingly meaningful percentage of their digital visitors being sourced from smartphones and tablets.”
This comScore data may imply that American shoppers generally prefer to look for electronics, clothing, and other items on mobile devices. If this is, in fact, the case, the mobile channel is certainly worth the investment.
Fact 3: M-commerce Spending Should Reach $38.4 Billion this Year
One persistent argument against investing in mobile optimization has been the suggestion that while there may be a lot of mobile traffic there are not really that many mobile transactions.
As a counterpoint, in January 2013 eMarketer estimated that U.S. m-commerce sales would reach $38.4 billion this year, up some 55.7 percent from about $24.66 billion in 2012. If the eMarketer estimate is accurate, about 15 percent of all U.S. ecommerce sales with come from a mobile device — that is more than one-in-seven ecommerce transactions.
It may be argued that not optimizing a site for could mean that online retailers are turning away a significant amount of sales.
Fact 4: Mobile-aided Commerce Is on the Rise
The mobile channel has the power to both directly produce sales, as the eMarketer estimates indicate, and to aid shoppers as they move through the buying process.
About 58 percent of U.S. smartphone and tablet owners used their mobile device to learn about products or prices either while in a physical store or while traveling to a store, according to August 2013 survey data from website testing and personalization firm Maxymiser.
This Maxymiser data may imply that American shoppers are beginning to use mobile devices as a sort of shopping aid, a reference to ensure that they are getting the best value and the most suitable options before making a purchase.
This sort of mobile-aided commerce could be very important for online sales in at least two ways. First, pure-play ecommerce business may be able to earn sales from showrooming shoppers who are standing in a physical store, but comparing prices online. In this scenario, having a mobile-optimized site may help a small Internet store beat a large competitor. Second, multi-channel retailers with both a physical store and a mobile optimized online presence, may be able to earn additional sales or even better serve customers.