2016: The Year of Mobile E-Commerce

by Joseph Kerschbaum

EcommerceThe days of debating mobile’s potential are over. According to search giant Google, mobile traffic has surpassed desktop traffic. But, users aren’t just searching on their mobile devices; they’re also engaging with ads. According to a recent report from PubMatic, mobile CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) are now 34 percent higher than on desktop. So how can marketers and retailers large and small capitalize on all of that e-commerce traffic taking place on mobile devices?

There is still a disparity between mobile e-commerce traffic and performance. But, with the market’s continual maturity, 2016 will likely be the year of mobile, as marketers begin to better capitalize on all of that e-commerce traffic.

Why is there a gap between desktop and mobile?

Before we dive into accepting this trend, we should understand the consumer drive behind it, to better understand how to leverage it. It’s no surprise to say consumers are on their phones all the time; even without the hard data, just look around you on your next commute via public transport or any other public setting. According to an eMarketer report, the average U.S. adult in 2011 spent 46 minutes on their mobile devices, compared to 2015, when that time more than tripled to 2 hours and 54 minutes. The reverse happened with time spent on desktops or laptops, which averaged 2 hours and 30 minutes in 2011 but declined to 2 hours and 12 minutes in 2015.

Combine that data with global initiatives, like Facebook’s, to bring the internet to the entire world, particularly in developing countries where mobile use far outstrips computer use, and the future is made clear: cheaper and portable, handheld devices have and will continue to reign.

Mobile’s use for reconnaissance

EcommerceFollowing 2015′s Black Friday and Cyber Monday data analysis, we see that brick-and-mortar retail sales are down compared to last year. A study done by in-store analytics provider ShopperTrak found that Black Friday brought in $10.4 billion this year versus $11.6 billion in 2014. However, sales via mobile devices accounted for 37 percent of online sales and exceeded desktop sales, according to Adobe’s report. With consumers researching in-store products on their mobile devices to compare prices, retailers are fighting back with apps allowing users to check for out-of-stock items online, or to compare prices against online competitors.

So, what can small-to-mid-size independent retailers do to leverage this clear and growing trend and turn mobile-first users into online or even in-store conversions without their own dedicated mobile app?

Lead-gen best practices to optimize mobile e-commerce

Before finding your mobile e-commerce sweet spot, it is important to bear in mind that, while proven to be effective, some implementations will require a more significant investment (in time, technology, and / or expenses) than others. So weighing the costs and benefits carefully before deciding what to implement will help to keep expectations and budgets aligned.

Drive customers offline and into your store: offer customers looking you up on their mobile device the ability to search for your closest location. This is especially effective for large or higher-priced items like furniture or cars, and conversion rates for implementing this are fairly low. Offering users a mobile-only coupon code to bring with them to the store will also allow you to know what drew them in and give the mobile campaign credit. Highlight special offers: even if customers are just browsing or comparing prices, you can play on that by encouraging them to sign up for email newsletters to receive future offers. This way, when customers are ready to make a purchase, they’ll be looped in on your best offers.

Put forward a human-to-human interaction: focus mobile search engine ads on phone calls. Since your mobile e-commerce ads are being served on phones, why not encourage calls? Google makes it easy; you don’t even need to click through to a landing page. One caveat: make sure those ads are only running when your phone is available. Leaving a call unanswered can waste click-throughs and reflect poorly on your business, regardless of how cheery the voicemail.

For marketers and retailers, embracing the mobile movement can drive more customers and revenue. Tailoring mobile campaigns with lead-gen best practices helps to reach users with the right messaging at the right time for their mobile frame of mind. Soon, search engines will have matured features like location-based store reminders for brick-and-mortar stores to connect with customers on their mobiles when they’re nearby. Until then, tailoring your mobile e-commerce strategy to suit the needs of your business and customers will help strengthen your brand and increase visibility.