Mobile + E-Commerce = Love Story

I was asked to write a “year in review” column for December. While I’ll write the review for my January column, I think it is very safe to say that 2012 is the year of mobile. It is very likely that 2012 will be remembered as the year that mobile Internet usage and mobile online shopping, just simply exploded.

A lot has been written over mobile, so in this column I’d like to just cover three areas that are of practical value: the symbiosis between mobile and online purchases, trends and behavior, and opportunities for marketers.

It Takes Two to Tango (Mobile + E-Commerce)

As the saying goes “it takes two to tango” – online purchases using mobile devices have nearly doubled globally. Taobao and TMall, China’s most popular online e-commerce sites, saw a 563 percent soar in purchases made via mobile devices in Q1 2012, compared to the same quarter in 2011. It’s really a love story in the making.

Despite the continued global economic meltdown, online purchases from mobile devices gained major upward traction across the world. Amongst our portfolio of e-commerce clients in the region we see 25 percent to 33 percent of traffic to e-commerce websites generated from mobile devices on average, and double-digit percentage increase in purchases made by using mobile devices.

Black Friday, Mega Monday, and Cyber Tuesday (there’s an open opportunity to name Wednesday…) give us a loud and clear picture of the permeance of mobile technology in global markets: U.K. online retailers saw a 36 percent increase in mobile site traffic on Mega Monday compared to last year, according to stats from Usablenet’s mobile platform. @comScore tweeted on Dec. 6 that “1 in 10 retail e-Commerce dollars are now spent via a mobile or tablet device.” EBay and PayPal for instance broke their own records and reported the biggest-ever mobile shopping date on Dec. 2. This chemistry between mobile and e-commerce is fueled by high adoption from smartphone and tablet users, combined with improved user interfaces and efficient m-commerce processes from vendors.

Want more numbers? US$ 5.6 billion worth of e-commerce sales in the U.K. were influenced by mobile devices with an actual whopping US$ 1.33 billion generated by smartphones and tablets combined.


Devices and Trends

Before we jump up in joy and run to our developers and tell them “we must have a mobile site ready by tomorrow,” let’s understand purchase behavior first.

Without going too much into the “war” between different mobile operating systems and on personal preferences, it looks as if Apple generates more online purchase than all the other operating systems. This applies to tablets and smartphones. When drilling into the results, Thanksgiving data in the U.S. released by IBM shows that iPad generated 10 percent of online sales, iPhone 8.7 percent, and Android 5.5 percent of overall online purchases.

It is very clear not only that the iPad ruled (to date) mobile shopping traffic, but that it is changing the way we shop online. People love the convenience tablets are offering, and thus tablets are the true driving force behind the explosion of the mobile online shopping, due to their similarity to desktop computers/ultrabooks in terms of website rendering, typing, and screen size. With the massive number of existing smartphone owners, the advent of tablets is impending and a majority of mobile transactions will come from tablets.

Business Insider Intelligence (BII) also predicts that tablet shoppers are likely to spend more money than smartphone users, and that they will drive more traffic to e-commerce websites (7 percent vs. 5 percent from smartphone).

(Source: )

If you want to take even a deeper dive, there’s an excellent slide deck I’ll recommend you should read:

The Opportunity Awaits

It’s really come to a do-or-die scenario. If you don’t have a clear mobile marketing strategy, your competitors will and you’re expected to lose market share for being the second mover.

Knowing that we can expect further rather rapid increase in mobile traffic and purchases, here are a couple of tips:

  • Email responsive design: You can target iPad/tablet users with a hidden banner to other devices. The banner can include a download link to your iPad app, or a voucher for instance to drive purchase from tablets. Read more on what responsive design is here. To me, responsive design is a must-have strategy when looking at targeting mobile users.
  • Lifecycles: Your marketing lifecycle has to target mobile purchases from tablets. Don’t just look at opens or clicks, but also click-to-open ratio. Then you can identify the time the actual conversions happens (on average naturally).
  • Passbook and vouchers: Many people are still figuring out what Apple’s Passbook can do. Passbook is a great marketing tool, where you can send location-based push notifications, send new vouchers, and run further push notifications. For instance, a company can promote a multi-channel QR code campaign that offers incentive to existing and new members. After your new registered members sign in, they can then be directed to a landing page where they can download the voucher to their mobile. You can track later on the number of vouchers downloaded, the location where they are used it, etc. Your vouchers on your email campaigns should include a download link of the vouchers to Passbook.
  • HTML5 vs. apps: A winner has not been announced yet on what’s better – a mobile site or an app. While apps are limited with their distribution options and to the space the user has on her device, HTML5 will bring us better media capabilities in the future and no limitation on distribution (except when it comes to browser compatibility). Many think it will save the web and will win out apps. If you are unsure but have available resources and time on hand, execute both options.
  • Landing pages: If you’ve already optimized your mobile email campaigns but they are redirecting to a normal HTML site, you may lose conversion. Having a mobile site is integral in converting traffic into purchase. There’s a huge opportunity for companies to build better product catalogs, and shopping processes designed for tablets.
  • LTE: There’s a very fast adoption of the latest cellular standard amongst manufacturers, carriers, and consumers. This will bring more opportunities for richer media in applications, and better monetization and engagement options for marketers.

My next column will be the year in review in which I’ll focus on my industry (email marketing). It will review the changes in technology, marketers, and developed channels.

Until then, Happy Holidays to you and your families. If you do not have a mobile strategy yet, you might want to dedicate a New Year’s Resolution to it…

Related reading

A QR code which leads to the URL for the ClickZ article about QR codes. Meta.