What ‘always-on’ means for mobile shopping
Smartphones are typically referred to as being “always-on devices” because they are constantly connected to the Internet, regardless of whether it’s through a mobile network or Wi-Fi connections. For retailers, that phrase has take a different turn, with a recent eMarketer report deeming them as “always-on” eCommerce channels because customers can use them to make purchases whenever is necessary.
In eMarketer’s “Key Digital Trends for 2014” report, the researcher noted the upshot of mobile devices for consumers: Customers are always in the “shopping state of mind,” which means they’re constantly in the consideration phase of the purchasing process.
For mobile-savvy eCommerce stores, the greater impact of mobile connectivity is something that few retailers have scratched the surface of. By 2017, mobile is expected to account for 26 percent of total eCommerce sales – a substantial amount of the total – but that still doesn’t illustrate the impact of smartphones and tablets to shopping activities.
“Smartphone use is more or less continuous,” Nick Hodson, partner at Booz, told eMarketer. “[It] doesn’t say anything about whether the use has anything to do with shopping, but it does mean that [it has] a large part of the consumer’s mindshare during that shopping mission. The shopping trip starts earlier and ends later than it used to.”
Extending the shopping experience through smartphones
Retailers must realize that mobile devices greatly extend the length of the purchasing process. It’s no longer an on-or-off process, where customers are either in a store/on a website or they won’t be making a purchase. Smartphones and tablets allow them to make purchases anywhere, and there are a number of factors that can spark that decision.
“The combination of portability, connectivity and relative affordability gives the smartphone a privileged place in driving always-on commerce,” the report added.
“Unlike tablets, smartphones are more frequently used on the go, often to assist in a purchase that in many cases does not necessarily terminate on the device. Even if tablets generate far higher on-device sales, smartphones play a unique role as the fulcrum between digital and physical retail.”
The greater use of smartphones in the retail process places the onus on merchants to respond accordingly. For many businesses in the sector, the extent of their mobile efforts is a mobile-friendly (or responsive design) website tailored for the smaller screens of mobile devices and tablets. This is not enough to fully accommodate the needs of the modern tech-savvy customer.
Instead, retailers need an omnichannel retail platform that can consolidate the various retail channels, from Web to brick-and-mortar, to better serve mobile customers. This enables merchants to offer mobile shoppers relevant products based on their Web browsing histories, allows them to find nearby store locations, purchase items on their phones and pick them up in-store, and take other similar actions.
With consumers able to buy products at any given moment through their smartphones, mobile shopping is more than an optimization issue – these devices must be fully integrated into merchants’ multichannel operations.