As the online and offline worlds converge, mobile commerce has the potential to eclipse desktop-based ecommerce and, perhaps, even replace a significant portion of traditional retail shopping.
Mobile-driven online sales in the U.S. are expected to reach $2.12 billion in 2013 and explode to about $62.2 billion in the next three years, according to an eMarketer report. With such phenomenal growth, some change is bound to come.
There are at least seven ways that mobile commerce is likely to change retail shopping and marketing. Online and multi-channel retailers should start preparing for these changes now.
1. Website Design Adapts
Online sellers are already working to build responsive sites that change size and layout in response to the user’s device or device orientation. By next year, responsive design will become imperative. Merchants that have not optimized for smartphones and tablets could see an impact to the bottom line.
2. Marketplaces Become More Important
Regardless of what mobile providers like AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, or Verizon would have you believe, mobile Internet connections can be disappointing. One possible side effect of relatively slow mobile connectivity is that mobile shoppers could be reluctant to open multiple browser windows as they search for products online.
As a result, mobile customers may be more likely to visit marketplaces like Amazon, Rakuten, or Newegg, where they can see products offered by several merchants and compare prices. What’s more, many of these services offer great apps that also makes shopper easier.
3. Shopping Becomes Ubiquitous
When a shopper is carrying a store in his pocket, he might just shop anywhere.
Mobile commerce will make shopping ubiquitous. A fellow riding the train home from work could be ordering jewelry for his wife or girlfriend. A 17-year-old girl at the beach might snap a photo of a friend’s swimsuit and use an app to find and order one just like it online. A sports fan sitting in a stadium might send a text to instantly order a new team jersey.
4. New Payment Services Will Emerge
Mobile commerce will accelerate the growth of new or improved payment solutions.
Manually typing a credit card number and a shipping address into a shopping cart form is, perhaps, the most painful part of shopping from a mobile device. This too will change.
Payment solutions like PayPal, Amazon Payments, or similar — and digital wallets like Google Wallet — will continue to grow and improve, offering mobile shoppers the option to pay with a single tap. Other new payment systems, including some from mobile service providers, will also emerge.
Once users become comfortable with these payment procedures, they will use them both online and at actual physical stores.
5. Mass Market Products Become Commodities
Mobile commerce makes pricing transparent. A shopper standing in Macy’s can compare the price of a blouse on any one of a dozen competitors’ websites, effectively transforming nearly every mass-marketed, mass-manufactured product into a commodity.
Brands will still do their best to enforce manufacturer-approved prices, but not many sellers will be getting a premium, which some boutique shops enjoyed before mobile’s advent.
6. Price Comparison Will Become Automated
Shoppers want to know that they are getting the best possible price before they make a purchase. Already there are dozens of mobile apps that help shoppers make price comparisons. Look for future applications to use information about a person’s tastes or buying habits to automate price comparison.
Shoppers will know which stores offer the best combination of price and shipping costs just by building a wishlist or snapping a photo of a product or barcode.
7. Product Reviews Will Become Centralized
After price comparisons, mobile shoppers are likely to look for user reviews before making a buying decision regardless of whether they are planning to order online or pick up an item from a brick-and-mortar store.
Look for review consolidators to emerge, offering shoppers the option to see product or vendor reviews from a number of sources through a single interface, probably an app.