The use of mobile devices in general and m-commerce in purchasing behaviour are certainly on the rise, but many consumers still remain to be convinced about the convenience of mobile online shopping, with e-commerce sites often still providing a sub-optimal customer experience on mobile.

M-Commerce: Still a Patchy Picture in the US

Every year the Adobe Digital Index (ADI) looks at consumer patterns in the United States. In its 2014 report it highlights how m-commerce – the act of purchasing goods and services from a mobile device – is progressing. Overall, e-commerce is not slowing down. According to New York-based independent market research company eMarketer, online sales are set to post a 30% increase year-on-year from 2013 to 2014, reaching $1.5 billion this year.  However, many people still find it more convenient to make online purchases from their PC. The latest e-commerce report from Nielsen, a US global information and measurement company, revealed that 80% of those polled for the survey chose to use their computer when they wanted to buy items on the Internet. Mobile phones came out in second place with 44% of those surveyed preferring the smartphone to a tablet, used by 31% of the respondents.

Mobile devices, especially smartphones, are of course highly convenient for the increasingly popular practice of ‘showrooming’ – going into a store to check out a product close up and then compare prices or offers on the Internet, before purchasing later online. This has led to many people preferring mobiles to PCs for making remote purchases.

The ADI was expecting to see a huge rise in m-commerce during the late-November peak shopping period in the United States – which includes Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday – with 31% of all online purchases made from smartphones and tablets, up from 21% in 2013.

M-commerce customer experience remains to be optimised

Although mobile telecommunications are set to increase – eMarketer is predicting that the penetration of mobile devices worldwide will have reached 69.3% by 2017, up from 61.1% in 2013, many companies and brands still do not position m-commerce as a major plank of their sales strategy. Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at independent technology and market research company Forrester Research, points out in a report entitled State of Mobile Commerce in 2014, which looks at online commerce in the US, that the conversion rate – i.e. people who actually buy the item they are browsing for or looking at – on smartphones only reached 0.6% in 2013, compared with 1.5% for tablets and 2.2% for desktop computers. The report also reveals that mobile devices are mostly used to buy goods worth under $50, while the desktop is the preferred tool for purchasing higher value items.

In reply to the question: “Why haven’t you purchased a product on your device?”, 67% of the US smartphone non-buyers said the screen was too small, while 43% of the tablet-user non-buyers said that it is “more comfortable to shop while sitting at a computer.″ The question of data confidentiality also appears to be an important issue, with close to half of the respondents saying: “I don’t want to store financial information on my phone,” an attitude which acts as an obstacle to making m-purchases. Moreover, although m-commerce is undoubtedly gaining ground, e-commerce sites often lack optimisation for mobile and the overall customer experience is frequently not good enough to drive the appeal of m-commerce.

By Eliane HONG