With 80% of Internet users now claiming ownership of a smartphone, the dominance of the mobile-accessed web has become unquestionable. Where e-commerce meets the mobile-accessed web is a highly dynamic sector of the economy, and has particular relevance for e-commerce vendors who want to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving field.
Hyper growth within a growing industry
E-commerce is becoming a more significant part of in the consumption-based U.S. economy. According to the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce, it is estimated that e-commerce sales for 2014 reached $304.9 billion, an increase of 15.4% from 2013.
While the e-commerce sector is experiencing strong growth, the mobile e-commerce industry subsection is taking off at an even faster rate. On Black Friday 2014, for example, U.S. mobile site traffic increased by 25.1% from the previous year, according to the U.S. Retail Black Friday Report, a number projected to increase.
The trends in mobile e-commerce indicate that it is vital for e-commerce companies to increase their marketing efforts geared toward people using the mobiles, as opposed to PC. According to a Nielsen, the average American spends over 34 hours per month using their smartphone compared to around 27 hours per month accessing the web from their personal computer. Nearly one quarter of the time spent using smartphones goes to Facebook, Twitter and other social apps, making these sites optimal tools for retailers to connect with potential customers.
Many online retailers are well-versed in inbound marketing and recognize the important role it plays in the success of their businesses with Google generating the majority of incoming traffic. For e-commerce vendors, this is another reason to take into consideration the needs of mobile shoppers, even if they don't currently comprise a large portion of sales.
Mobile-optimization to maintain site traffic
In an attempt to improve search experience for its increasingly mobile users, Google recently changed its algorithm aimed at removing mobile “unfriendly” sites from the top of its search results, yielding positive results. To stay competitive and keep traffic flowing to your e-commerce website it’s imperative that your company becomes mobile-optimized.
Right now nearly 50% of online retailer site traffic comes through smartphones and tablets, according to an IBM report. Think of your business as if it were a brick and mortar retail outlet. Imagine if you treated 50% of your customers poorly. Do you think you would lose people walking through your door? Almost certainly. It is always better to ensure as many customers as possible leave your business with a positive experience, because customer satisfaction leads to increased sales. Not sure what a mobile-optimized site is? Think responsive design that adjusts its rendering to fit a wide variety of screen sizes. Think useability and ease for the customer.
With this in mind, it is important to be aware of the different devices that are on the market and where mobile technology is going. A mobile-optimized site that works well on an iPhone but not an iPad, for example, may have negative effects on client experience and, ultimately, the overall conversion rate. Additionally, the advent of wearables — such as the new Apple Watch — have the potential to further impact the way consumers view and shop for their products.
A good pointer when moving towards a positive mobile UX is to reduce image sizes to improve load times, and to minimize the amount of written content to make searching and buying as easy as possible. Optimizing your e-commerce site facilitate customers by reducing wasted time scrolling through the site, and will simplify their experience. Embedded video links also provide great tools for giving mobile users easy access to information directly from whichever screen they use to view your site.
Create a mobile marketing strategy
Mobile ad strategies should incorporate practices that are proven to be successful in gaining the attention of mobile users as more consumers shift their primary screen time towards mobile devices.
Successful mobile marketing strategies tend to incorporate location-based advertising to give potential customers the right ad at the right place and time. As an example, if it’s winter in North America, it is summer in South America, so you can market specific seasonal clothing to customers across the globe accordingly. Also, you could make sure that special offers are sent to customers according to their time zone, so they receive your message at an optimal time of day.
Make it easy for mobile users to contact your business
Typing on a mobile device is often more tedious than typing on a desktop keyboard. Furthermore, mobile users are more likely to use their devices on-the-go and in environments prone to distraction. E-commerce businesses can take these environmental differences into account by avoiding making mobile users fill out forms as a method of contact. Instead, give them a phone number, or even better, consider including click-to-call functionality on the mobile friendly website.
The future of mobile e-commerce
While 50% of web traffic to e-commerce sites comes from mobile platforms, there’s still a ways to go before the industry subsection reaches full maturity, which also means there is a lot of potential for creativity, innovation, and growth within the sector. Already people are accessing pages on many devices, and studies show that companies with mobile-friendly sites see a far higher conversion rate — over 50% — than companies who have stuck with non-responsive sites. To stay relevant, e-commerce business owners need to be up-to-date with new developments and strategy plans to optimize their sales on mobile platforms.
These changing strategies even flow onto companies that are well established in the mobile scene. Apps, for example are a consumer’s prefered way to access their mobile content, shop, or use a service. This is one of the most valuable points that an e-commerce company should analyze when entering the mobile market. A sleek, well designed app can improve both the experience and brand loyalty of a customer. However, trying to cram everything that a website does into one app can be expensive, and can have adverse effects on the user who may be overwhelmed with functions. Apps with limited functions are already used by large mobile players, like Facebook and FourSquare, which are slowly deconstructing their apps into smaller versions. Less may be more when it comes to an app’s task, so it important to focus only on the important parts of your product or service.
As mentioned above, innovation within the mobile market is taking various forms within individual types of mobile devices, and as devices change so will consumer trends. A steady rise of the “wearable tech” will mean that e-commerce companies will have to shape their strategies further to suit that section of a highly dynamic market. By incorporating tools such as mobile optimization, marketing, and payment methods, retailers can now scale their businesses to fit the needs of a mobile age.
About the author:
Udayan Bose is the CEO & Founder of NetElixir, a Princeton-based digital marketing agency that applies mathematical models to drive search marketing results. With offices in the US, UK, and India, NetElixir works around the clock, persistently gathering, evaluating, computing, and formulating raw data and turning it into actionable insights for its customers.