Communication theorist Marshall McLuhan once said: “The medium is the message” in his seminal book Understanding the media: human extensions published in 1964. At the time, the media were television, movies, books, newspapers and magazines. He could not have imagined the explosion of mediums carrying messages in the digital age.
Today, the ultimate “human extension” is the mobile device. If mobile is the medium, then mobile apps are the message of brands and retailers. But there is still a lot of work to be done to put the full power of mobile shopping in the hands of consumers.
Mobile as an access ramp to the digital highway
In February 2021, the Pew Research Center 85% of Americans own a smartphone. As a result, it has become the main access ramp to the digital highway. In 2020, over 60% of US website visits are from mobile devices, only 38% of desktops and 3% of tablets, according to a study by Google Analytics.
Smartphones play a central role in people’s lives, especially for GenZs and Millennials, who are digital natives. They wake up with the morning and go to bed with the evening.
It is also the ultimate multitasking tool. People have it in hand when they are doing other things, like having dinner with their friends and consuming other media. It’s their source of information, communications, relationships, entertainment, research and, increasingly, their digital shopping assistant.
During the pandemic, our mobile devices became even more important. For those who are confined to working from home, their desktops and laptops have become essential in the workplace. So when they wanted to have fun online, they would pick up their phones.
Retail therapy, or shopping as a way to improve your mood, was one of those fun uses. And with people facing such high levels of pandemic-induced stress, they have turned to digital “therapy” shopping for relief.
A recent Bazaarvoice survey of over 9,000 consumers around the world found that a majority (54%) enjoy shopping online more than in-store browsing.
But turning that virtual window shopping into a real purchase is where mobile presents obstacles.
Dams on the digital shopping highway
More than half of consumers (51%) say it is easier to shop online on a computer than on a mobile phone, according to Forrester. They are discouraged by small mobile screens and feel less secure in making payments via mobile. Moreover, they find the websites less functional on mobile compared to a computer and the transaction process is just not optimized for mobile phones.
This may explain the gap between the 61% of website visits that come from mobile and around 45% of e-commerce transactions carried out on mobile in 2020, according to Business Insider Intelligence.
Without a doubt, 45% of e-commerce sales last year was a huge volume – some $ 356 billion of the $ 791.7 billion made through electronic purchases. And that was a huge leap from the estimate $ 269 billion in m-commerce sales in 2019, but there is still a long way to go.
“Consumers are more dependent on digital devices than ever before, and Insider Intelligence predicts that mobile will increasingly be the preferred channel for consumers to shop online over the next five years,” Insider Intelligence reports. “M-commerce has the potential to become a major purchasing channel and to change the purchasing habits of consumers. ”
Reaching the pace of mobile and reaching its full potential will require a multidisciplinary effort combining technical sophistication and human engineering fueled by psychological insight, says Bhrugu Pange, general manager of technology services at AArete, a global consulting firm. management.
“For mobile commerce to be successful, it takes an understanding of the data, the design and the way people think,” he shares. “Few companies really understand all the components. They need to understand who’s buying, and then present personalized screens or personalized shopping journeys that keep them engaged.
“Retail should be fun and entertaining, not a chore,” Pange continues. “And cell phones have to do it.”
M-commerce must evolve towards Me-commerce
As the industry talks more about m-commerce, that is, commerce carried out on mobile devices, Pange offers an even more important concept: me-trade, which McKinsey defines as the ultimate personalized customer journey.
Since consumers live their lives on and through their mobile phones, Pange believes that mobile commerce is best achieved through mobile commerce.
“E-commerce is the personalized experience that feeds a personalized journey,” he says. “It must be fueled by data. Cell phones are the new personal computing devices. They have all of your personal information. This is where the data is collected to make shopping truly enjoyable.
Unfortunately, too many mobile apps from retailers are catching up on achieving e-commerce with Amazon and social media sites ahead of the game.
Putting the power in the hands of customers
“Mobile commerce can flow through many different channels, including distributors, stores, online retailers, big box apps and social media. Facebook, for example, has a huge presence this way because they control so much user data, ”Pange shares.
For every good retail mobile app that can personalize the shopper’s experience, there are plenty more that end up in app junkyard, used once or twice and then discontinued.
“It takes a good app design to bring customers back each month and keep them active. This is one of the key metrics in the world of mobile adoption, ”he says, emphasizing that Bonobos excel through personalized curation.
For example, by keeping a customer’s purchase history, the Bonobos app will come up with new suggested items that might go with something already in your closet. Such personalized curation nurtures enormous brand loyalty, the holy grail for retailers.
“Mobile apps need to do four things: deliver information, be practical, entertaining, and connect. Few offer all four, but the top performers provide three out of four, like Facebook which provides information, entertainment and connections, ”he continues, noting that Facebook Marketplace and Facebook Shops are also adding the convenience component.
And because these personal computing devices accompany the customer everywhere, retailers can engage in-store shoppers with apps that can act as shopping assistants. Home Depot excels in this area.
“I often shop at Home Depot and it took about 70% of my time in the store just to find where to find what I needed. Now I go to the store, I pull out my phone, I do a search and it tells me exactly where I need to go to find it, ”he shares.
“This is what omnichannel should look like. Whether you are in an analog store, on a browser or using your cell phone. Everything converges in a single experience, a single journey, ”concludes Pange.