Rapid growth in M-Commerce has permanently changed consumer shopping habits

Our technical writer Jane Holt looks at the development of Smartphone dominance.

Mobile commerce, or Mcommerce for short is a rising star in the multi-channel marketing world. It is enjoying unprecedented growth in the UK with more than 38% of consumers using a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet to make an online purchase (www.imrg.org) and this trend looks set to continue.

mobile commerce | Market Avenue Limited

We know mobile phones have been one of the success stories over the last 15 to 20 years but many of us are only now becoming aware of the potential of this device in regard to online shopping.

Now, the argument goes that this could signal the end of High Street shopping and debit/credit card payments although I think there will be some resistance to this, particularly when it comes to using your phone to make a purchase, as people still have concerns about security when using a chip and pin terminal or paying for something online.

I think younger people will be keener to use mobile payments than older people due to their familiarity with technology although I may be guilty of using a stereotype.

Smartphone adoption

The last few years has seen a massive upsurge in mobile phone ownership, in particular smartphones, which are increasingly used to shop online.

The results from a survey undertaken by eDigital Research and IMRG show that more than half of the population in the UK own a smartphone. And, more than half of these use their phone for online shopping with two-thirds making a purchase.

The most popular brands are Apple, Samsung, HTC and BlackBerry followed by Nokia and LG. Many people own either an iPhone or a Samsung handset with several others (including me) owning a BlackBerry.

What are people buying with their phone? To start with, small items such as books, music, films and gifts followed by clothes, food, white goods and travel, e.g. holidays. What appears to be happening is that as consumers become more confident in using their phones to make purchases they then buy bigger, more expensive items.

Digital bargain hunting

mobile commerce | Market Avenue LimitedConsumer shopping habits may have changed but one thing that remains a certainty is our love of discounts, special offers and promotions. We enjoy searching for that elusive bargain or buying a product that has a substantial percentage off the price and this behaviour applies equally to bricks and mortar and online stores.

We know that many consumers prefer to research a product online before they buy. They read the product information, scan the customer reviews, compare prices on different sites and discuss their intended purchase with others via social media.

Do you do that? I do most if not all of the above although I still like the old ‘word of mouth’, i.e. a recommendation from friends. If I have been talking to someone and they recommend products (in my case, a component for my bike) then I place a high value on that recommendation. Think it is a case of a bit of both – face to face and online.

The rise of ‘showrooming’

This behaviour has transferred to smartphones with many consumers engaging in what is known as ‘showrooming’. This is where the consumer looks for a particular product in store, checks the price online on their smartphone, notices that it is cheaper and then leaves. They then buy the product using their phone.

This is frustrating for bricks- and- mortar retailers, but there is little they can do to prevent this. This is especially the case in the current economic climate as many consumers are feeling the pinch and are looking to pay less for a product.

One answer may be for the bricks -and- mortar retailer to provide a high end, personal level of service to the consumer that cannot be replicated online. This may work well with certain specialist products, e.g. bicycles, but not so much with generic items.

The bottom line is that people are more careful when and where they spend their money and if they can find it cheaper on the internet then they buy it from there. A High Street store could offer the best ‘customer shopping experience’ possible but if their products cost more than, say on Amazon, they will still lose out.

Money talks, even when you have less of it in your pocket.

Smartphone-savvy shopping 

As smartphones become ever more sophisticated with greater computing power and increased functionality, the tech-savvy consumer will take full advantage of this to their benefit. Browsing will be confined online and always at a time and place to suit the consumer.

Think about it: it is much nicer to sit in a coffee shop with a large latte in front of you, browsing through items on your smartphone rather than trudging around the shops on a late Saturday afternoon. But there will still be people who enjoy a spot of ‘retail therapy’ at the weekend.

The future of mobile retail

mobile commerce | Market Avenue LimitedMcommerce is an important part of a retail marketing strategy, seamlessly integrating with other channels to optimise sales and growth.

For the business owner this means having a mobile version of their website that meets the standards set by the Mobile Web Initiative (MWI), enabling consumers to browse and make purchases quickly and easily.

Consider also the increased use of tablets, e.g. iPad for online shopping. Ensure that the information on your company website is readable and up to date across all devices.

Whatever marketing channel you use, whether that is mobile, direct mail, TV advertising, social media or bricks and mortar stores; it is important to have a consistent message throughout.

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