Where Is Mobile eCommerce Headed In The Next Two Years
Last Updated: November 13, 2020
Smartphones are almost ubiquitous in the US. Seventy-seven percent of Americans own a smartphone and 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase with their phone in the last year. If that sounds like old news, that’s because it is. Online retailers are well aware of the importance of online eCommerce. But as technology and social behavior evolve, so must mobile eCommerce. For eCommerce retailers to flourish into the future, they must do more than implement a responsive design and wait for mobile users to start spending.
Mobile ecommerce accounts for only 10% of total retail revenue, but it is fast becoming the dominant platform for online shopping. As online shopping grows as a proportion of total retail sales, mobile ecommerce shopping will expand rapidly. Mobile ecommerce has room to grow, and the evidence points to a shift in consumer behavior away from brick-and-mortar retail, particularly in areas such as groceries that have been slow to move online.
Should eCommerce retailers stick with the web or invest in a native application? If they go native, should they start on iOS or Android? Do they need an app on both platforms? These are not easy questions to answer, especially when every answer has a considerable dollar value attached.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) offer a middle way. Using modern web technologies, they allow retailers to create a web application with some of the qualities of a native mobile application: offline functionality, push notifications, and a speed boost compared to server-rendered web applications.
Modern ecommerce applications like Magento and WooCommerce are PWA-capable, with APIs that can be used to build decoupled front-ends that take full advantage of PWA techniques and supply an entire ecosystem to assist with driving growth, for example apps that supply best in class customer analytics. For larger ecommerce retailers, native applications may still be the way to go, but PWAs provide a lower-cost, less labor-intensive alternative.
Online ecommerce has been hindered by the limitations of current mobile network technology. On 3G networks, eCommerce applications are painfully slow. It’s better on 4G, but there are limitations to what a store can accomplish.
The 5G network rollout began last year and will cover most urban areas within a couple of years. 5G-capable phones will soon become widespread. With 5G, retailers have data to spare. Estimated 5G bandwidths are somewhere in the region of 10 Gbps, faster than most home broadband. Faster mobile broadband makes for better experiences on the eCommerce stores we have today, but, more importantly, it opens the door to experiences that have not thus far been possible, including high-definition video and augmented and virtual reality.
Beyond traditional mobile ecommerce, 5G’s faster bandwidths, lower latencies, and more efficient power use will drive the development of the Internet of Things, creating opportunities for high-fidelity personalization and the merging of the online and offline ecommerce experience.
Thus far, AR and VR have not transformed ecommerce as the hype predicted, but that has more to do with platform limitations than the potential benefits of the technology. In combination with 5G, AR and VR offer opportunities that retailers will find hard to ignore, particularly on mobile.
The tying together of online commerce and the physical world is a major theme in the future of mobile ecommerce. Augmented reality is a powerful strategy in this regard, allowing retailers to inject virtual objects into shoppers’ physical environments.
Ikea led the way with its Ikea Place app, which allows shoppers to see virtual versions of IKEA’s products in their home before placing an order. Multinational retailers like IKEA can afford to invest in 3D modeling for their massive inventory, but the cost has been prohibitive for smaller businesses. New services like Vertebrae provide the technology and expertise needed for 3D modeling at a lower cost, so we’re likely to see AR, in particular, becoming a part of many more mobile shopping experiences.
If you lose your AirPods as often as I do, you’ll be familiar with the seamless experience of shopping on Apple’s eCommerce store, especially where checkout is concerned. Shoppers confirm the order, authenticate via fingerprint or face recognition, and they’re done. It’s faster and more pleasant than even the most streamlined credit card form.
Apple Pay, which was launched in 2014, has a host of competitors from Amazon, Google, and Samsung. They all offer low-friction checkouts. As consumers become more accustomed to mobile payments, their willingness to deal with the frustrations of traditional checkout and payment will diminish. During testing, Stripe discovered that Apple Pay allows shoppers to check out 58% more quickly.
As mobile becomes an increasingly important venue for online retail, fast and efficient mobile payments will become the norm. Today, they’re simple to use with prominent eCommerce applications, and payment providers like Stripe and PayPal offer integrations for Apple Pay and other mobile payments systems.
Social Drives ecommerce Into The Physical World
In 2019, Instagram is undoubtedly one of the most effective marketing channels for ecommerce retailers. But it’s not enough to post images of your products. Successful Instagram marketing campaigns involve customers and influencers, and that means bringing your ecommerce store into the physical world.
Instagram-friendly pop-up stores allow loyal customers to associate themselves with your brand while promoting it to their followers. The Egg House staged a pop-up experience in New York that garnered international media attention. It offered colorful and engaging backdrops and spaces, encouraging visitors to promote the brand as they promoted themselves.
Pure-play eCommerce stores are likely to expand their physical presence in the near future, driven by the marketing potential of social media platforms like Instagram and the technological potential of augmented and virtual reality. Social changes and new technology shape the retail landscape, and both evolve quickly in the mobile space. Retailers who can adapt to provide new experiences are likely to benefit as mobile furthers its domination of online shopping and eCommerce takes a bigger bite from global retail revenue.
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With almost a decade of experience in the tech industry, Robert has worked as a marketing consultant, product strategist, and content developer. At Nexcess, he spends his time helping clients find the best hosting solutions for their needs through online content and as a brand ambassador.
As a Brit raised to ignore umbrellas, when he’s not in the office you’ll find him either climbing a mountain, kayaking a river, or trying to find his next outdoor adventure. For more content, visit the Nexcess blog and give them a follow at @nexcess.