M-Commerce – Big News for the Small Screen

Buying. But Better. Why We’re Tapping into Mobile Commerce

M-commerce is the handy term that summarises buying and selling via a mobile device. It couples the power of technology and design with the portability of phones and tablets. That’s a compelling proposition for anyone doing business online, either exclusively or as part of a broader omni-channel mix.

So it’s an area businesses and organisations need to get on top of. Why? Because m-commerce presents tons of opportunities for sales, brand-building and first-rate User Experience.

This Hookson m-commerce blog will highlight all of these benefits and more. We’ll also cast an eye at some trends and advances to be watching out for.

Let’s begin though with a swift jog to the front of the alphabet. We’ll start by taking a quick look at a close relation of m-commerce: e-commerce

Pop Quiz. In Which Year Did the First E-Commerce Transaction Take Place?

You’re probably thinking maybe sometime in the early-mid 90s. But deep down, you know that the question must have a pretty surprising answer. Otherwise, why ask it?

And you’re right. For the first example of e-commerce is generally agreed to have occurred in 1971 or 72. That’s when students of Stanford University and MIT bartered between themselves a small lump of cannabis. The transaction was part of the students’ ARPANET project – activity that would become core to the development of the internet.

A Revolution Has Occurred 

It’s an interesting fact. But of course the e-commerce we’re all familiar with today really got clicking around 1995. No surprise to learn this was the year both eBay and Amazon launched.

Since then, the online buying and selling of products and services has completely changed the game for us consumers.

A truly global marketplace is within easy reach and we can now buy everything from a hairpin to a holiday via just a couple of clicks or taps. It’s not dramatic therefore to say that a revolution has occurred. The stats back it up: worldwide, the number of digital buyers rocketed from 1.32 billion in 2014 to 2.14 billion by 2021.

Loaded With Benefits

So, to m-commerce. It’s tempting to think that it’s basically just e-commerce, but performed on your phone. But that would be to miss the important distinctions that characterise m-commerce – and the subsequent benefits for both buyers and sellers.

Let’s look at what defines m-commerce, and why it’s such a plus for both parties.

Our work with Edinburgh's Scotch Whisky Experience enabled mobile commerce with UX at its heart

First-rate m-commerce will deliver tons of opportunities for sales, brand-building and first-rate User Experience.

M-commerce: Small and Powerful

Where regular e-commerce tends towards an organisation’s online store, m-commerce offers a radically different customer experience in terms of how, when and where we buy products and services.

That unique experience all begins, of course, on the mobile device itself.

Driving Outstanding UX

M-commerce lives or dies on the quality of User Experience and User Interface. Here, a mobile-first approach to e-commerce design will go a long way to achieving customer-pleasing UX and UI.

Mobile-first is a design philosophy that sees designers creating experiences for the smallest screen – the mobile – prior to building out experiences for the larger desktop and laptop interfaces. At Hookson, our website designs are increasingly gearing towards mobile-first.

With less physical space in which to design, mobile-first ensures creators are naturally concentrating on the most important features, elements and experiences, whilst bloaty, surplus-to-requirement additions are ignored.

The main takeout from this is that m-commerce is actually driving the very best UX and UI: from faster page-load speed to greater personalisation. From simpler, leaner design to more advanced functionality. These benefits and more are keeping customers browsing – and buying.

M-commerce: the Omni-Channel Champion

Despite the shift to online shopping, consumers continue visiting physical stores even as they engage with online browsing, researching and shopping.

Smart businesses recognise these omni-channel customers and provide a dedicated and connected experience across multiple devices and the touchpoints – including the physical store – where transactions occur.

It’s kind of ironic, but m-commerce, agile and in-the-moment, in crossing these channels, seamlessly takes account of, and elevates the experience within, the physical retail space. M-commerce can, for example, geo-target customers, and offer on-screen coupons for in-store redemption.

Pushing Profits

Going further in terms of traditional e-commerce reach, m-commerce can also exploit device features like push notifications that might announce an offer or promotion. And thanks to devices’ GPS feature, it’s easy to target promotions at consumers in a particular locality.

Again, perhaps surprisingly, for bricks-and-mortar stores, this is another way that m-commerce can actually drive traffic to physical locations.

Social Commerce

Omni-channel isn’t very omni without taking in social media, of course. Shoppable posts on the likes of Instagram and Facebook provide a one-tap, one-device route to purchase. And with so many consumers searching out reviews and new products, being active, relevant and providing quality content on social channels is a must for m-commerce strategy.

At Hookson, our TikTok blog looked at the pulling power of that hugely popular social platform. There, we discussed areas including influencer marketing, user-generated content, promotions and paid-for advertising.

Consistency is Key

Of note here is the importance of a joined-up experience, whether that happens in-store, on mobile, desktop or across social media. Your branding and brand values should be presented consistently at every turn.

Built for Multiple Payment Solutions

Making transacting a snap, m-commerce welcomes a rich mix of payment options. All of the names you’d expect – the likes of PayPal, Stripe and Shopify – are powerful m-commerce allies, as are more wallets from Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung.

These big-hitters have recognised the power of m-commerce and the move to a mobile-first design philosophy.

And looping back to physical stores, many wallets now offer contactless payments directly from a vendor’s mobile app.

Whether In-store, on mobile, desktop or across social media, branding and brand values should be presented consistently at every turn.

Beyond Online Buying

M-commerce is making a big difference way beyond the raw buying and selling of goods and services. Increasingly, m-commerce innovations are benefitting a range of areas across sectors like retail and leisure, travel and transportation.

Loyalty, Location and a Lot Less Lolly 

M-commerce-engaged businesses are discovering the benefits of directly engaging with customers via the app. From the small screen, loyalty points are earned, totted up and redeemed. It’s easy to find the nearest branch or store too – all ready for in-app discounts at that specific location.

Supermarkets have cottoned- on to the value of the app and are using its potential in creative ways.

Across the major chains, apps are variously handling ordering and delivery, replacing loyalty cards and in some cases building personalised shopping lists via in-store or in-kitchen barcode scanning.

Added value and engagement comes also from recipe suggestions – boosting sales – and access to nutritional information as featured on the Waitrose & Partners app.

Just the Ticket

In a world that’s championing the use of fewer resources and, thanks to Covid, the notion of keeping our distance, m-commerce is ahead of the curve. The hassle – and resource-use – of paper tickets are becoming a thing of the past. Instead, e-tickets and/or QR codes are leading the way. Whether it’s for a seat on a train or one at a venue, m-commerce can make it happen.

Clicks and Bricks

Further demonstrating the ties between m-commerce and the physical retail space, shoppers are increasingly using mobiles for the pre-ordering of goods.

For consumers, pre-ordering is convenient. Browsing, then buying, online, prior to picking up at the store, saves time and provides terrific UX.

For vendors, the ability to instantly capture a sale – turning a browser into a buyer – means apps and mobile website are working harder and boosting ROI.

Online and On-Demand

Thanks to the march of the internet, the distance between desire and fulfilment is shortening. And m-commerce, built for the 24/7 experiences and expectations that the online world has created, is answering the call.

M-commerce solutions responding to these expectations have seen disruptive providers like Uber establish, then prosper.

Throughout consumer banking too, high street players have embraced sophisticated apps allowing customers to perform increasingly complex transactions at a time and place that suits them.

And when it comes to footing the bill, everything from train rides and entry fees to restaurant bills and the weekly shop can be paid for directly from the mobile.

The Future of M-Commerce: What’s Incoming?

M-commerce usage, growth and popularity is only going to swell as more and more buyers turn to ever-more sophisticated mobile devices.

Statista tells us that across 2021’s second quarter, the smartphone bagged 70% of the UK’s retail site visits. On top of this, we completed 63% of online shopping orders on our mobiles.

These figures leave desktops languishing: responsible for a mere 26% of retail website traffic (although generating a surprising 33% of all purchases).

So as m-commerce continues dominating, how might things advance and play out?

M-commerce is already dominating online shopping - and will only rise higher

Chatbots: Let’s Talk About AI 

Encountered online already, of course, it’s likely that the chatbot will become even more of a feature as it imposes on the everyday m-commerce experience.

AI-powered, and becoming smarter and more sophisticated, chatbots are a great fit for m-commerce. So we’ll be seeing bots not only answering queries, but also recommending products and services.

Augmented Reality: Closer Than You Think

This technology harnesses the mobile camera to place a digital element – for example, a sofa – into your own physical world, for example that living room that needs… a new sofa. It’s a genuinely exciting advance and one that’s surely primed to establish further across m-commerce.

IKEA Place is the most well-known such innovation.

Sofa delivered and looking ace? You could use Wallr to decide if a painting or artwork should be hanging above it.

This app places your masterpiece virtually on the wall, allowing you to locate the ideal spot well before the hammer and nails come out.

An App That’s Fit For Purpose

Another real-life example, and a different application of Augmented Reality, is seen via Nike Fit, the sportswear brand’s AR-driven innovation.

Designed to forensically measure customers’ shoe size, the app’s mobile-based scanning technology ensures Nike’s trainers fit like a glove (in a manner of speaking). A customer’s profile data is stored and accessible online, thus giving the brand a step up whenever it’s time to grab a new pair of trainers.

Deeper Engagement

AR enhances Nike’s UX offering in other cool ways too. At any Nike store, a mobile locates a product in a flash, then offers more information about it.

For shoppers, that saves time and fosters deeper engagement.

For the businesses, use of innovations like these build and differentiate the brand as well as freeing up staff time for other duties.

Voice Search: Speaking the Language of M-Commerce

This is another innovation that we’re used to, thanks largely to the uptake of voice-enabled personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s HomePod and Google’s Nest.

In an m-commerce context, Apple’s Siri virtual assistant and Alexa, found on Google and Android devices, make voice searching a cinch from tablets and mobiles.

Getting Louder

Uptake is on the hop. Already, 4.2 billion digital voice assistants are found across the world’s devices. And Statista reports that by 2024, that number will balloon to 8.4 billion – so, more voice-enabled gadgets than there will be people to engage with them.

As voice search gathers pace, developers will respond by optimising apps to engage with the longer and more complex keywords, phrases and queries we naturally use when speaking.

There’s a lesson there also for SEO. Perhaps leading paragraphs and meta descriptions will become more conversational in tone and content to chime with how voice-searchers are speaking with their devices.

One-Click Apps: The Dedicated Cart Solution

Across online transacting, nothing pushes cart abandonment rates higher than a complicated checkout process.

Here, mobile sites suffer most. Research by one leading e-commerce personalisation outfit revealed an 85% abandonment rate on mobile devices. That’s compared to 73% for desktop.

Reasons vary – from the hassle of creating a new account to the fact that some visitors are researching or comparing products and not yet ready to buy.

Apps Will Answer the Call

But specifically for m-commerce, the smaller screens of smartphones can present a challenge when entering delivery and payment information. And pop-ups – fine on larger desktops and laptops – frustrate on mobiles and many tablets.

So, evolving the mobile-first design philosophy,  expect to see more and more dedicated mobile commerce apps from retailers (as opposed to merely a mobile version of a desktop website). Furthermore, expect to see these apps hosting one-click payment solutions like the Buy Now feature favoured by Amazon.

An Exciting Evolution

M-commerce is evolving traditional e-commerce in genuinely interesting and surprising ways. At Hookson we’re particularly excited about the omni-channel experience, and how purpose-built apps will be driving conversions.

Big things are happening on the small screen and we’re ready to help your business take full advantage.