Support for having a mobile-optimized website received added momentum today. That’s because eMarketer, in conjunction with Zmags, reported on the growth of the mobile browser as the preferred medium for m-commerce. In a recent study, U.S. consumers overwhelmingly chose desktops and laptops (87 percent) for their shopping-related activities, followed by in-store shopping (71 percent) and websites accessible via smartphone (14 percent). Websites on tablets came in fourth, with apps rounding out the top activities.
The supremacy of computers shouldn’t be surprising, as consumers have become very comfortable with their online-shopping behaviors. Add to that the fact that online shopping has had time to settle into the economic landscape over the course of the past decades, meaning consumers have evolved with e-commerce by adopting it into their lifestyles. To consumers, online shopping is as second nature as in-store shopping. In fact, the aforementioned eMarketer report would suggest that going online has ousted in-store shopping in terms of being more “second nature.” And that suggests the tremendous shift in purchase patterns that has taken hold recently.
But mobile is a relatively new medium in terms of its shopping function. Certainly, its place in terms of telecommunication is well established, but consumers are finally embracing smartphone technology first for their searching and now for their purchasing. But m-commerce has come under fire recently for its security and privacy issues, and it may take some time, like it did for e-commerce, for consumers overall to feel comfortable with and accept mobile as a shopping mechanism. Still in its infancy, mobile has a long way to go to catch up with its desktop/laptop counterpart, but expect adoption to be quickened thanks to consumers’ existing familiarity with online shopping.
According to Nielsen, U.S. smartphone reach hit 46 percent at the close of 2011. In another report issued today, Google provided exclusive data to suggest smartphones have overtaken personal computers and are stealing from the market share held by feature phones (we can thank wireless-data accessibility and device affordability, among other factors, for the smartphone invasion). Based on those rising statistics, expect the 14 percent mentioned earlier to experience a continual ascent, especially as more consumers became acquainted with mobile technology and its functions.
Undoubtedly, more consumers across all demographics will adopt smartphones into their daily lives, meaning more will become comfortable with the technology enabled on their devices. And that means shopping patterns will be influenced yet again. But as it currently stands, 14 percent of a growing market prefer to conduct shopping activities via websites on smartphones, so having a mobile-optimized site has tremendous potential for your sales.
Even if your mobile site isn’t fully capable of or up to par with being an m-commerce platform, just having a site will be a major benefit. What do I mean? Let’s not forget that a majority of mobile users search on their mobile devices to fulfill immediate needs that can be satisfied offline within the hour. Considering that the second preferred method of purchase activity is in-store shopping, a mobile site, coupled with consumers’ indicated desire to complete offline transactions, can drive in-store traffic and sales. In fact, “Shopping” continues to be a top-ranked search category across xAd’s network, meaning consumers are searching for their local-sales outlets via mobile with the intent of buying in person (the latest holiday-shopping season is a prime example of local intent as it pertains to the influx of mobile searching and offline buying).
To do so, your mobile site must satisfy the requirements of “search online, buy offline,” that is providing consumers with basic information about your business and its offerings, while redirecting them to your nearest brick-and-mortar storefronts where they can complete the transactions. For example, to fit within the local-sales ecosystem, your site must be optimized for mobile-search results, as well as feature a smartphone-friendly design, an updated inventory (an increasing number of mobile users are demonstrating a propensity to search via mobile while physically present in stores), concise product descriptions, easy-to-find contact information, one-touch click to call, mapping and navigation, mobile-specific offers for in-store redemption and so on.
What if you don’t satisfy the mobile viewer’s needs? No big deal, right? Consider the following: A majority of consumers immediately quit shopping if a website cannot be accessed properly on a smartphone. Translation: Lacking a mobile site that is sensitive to the different behaviors and needs of on-the-go consumers means they’ll forgo purchase consideration with you and seek out the competition. This falls right in line with consumers expecting mobile websites to perform the same, if not better, than their desktop counterparts. Again, today’s consumers, who once viewed e-commerce as a foreign matter, have been spoiled by the advancements and conveniences of modern shopping that is the Internet. As a result, they have carried over their expectations to new forms of media.
This is a resounding victory for mobile websites, yet a majority of businesses lack a site optimized for mobile viewing. If you’re looking for data to justify to senior management your stance on developing such a site, this would be the stuff to use. And with HTML5 becoming the new standard for guiding mobile-compliant websites, more businesses will jump on the bandwagon in 2012. As that happens, businesses will follow the trend initiated by consumers in that they’ll focus more heavily on their mobile websites versus apps. Failure to set in motion a mobile-website plan could mean you’ll be playing catch up as more businesses enter the race, so plan now.