In the build-up to the holiday season last year there was a lot of excitement about social commerce and how Facebook’s enormous user base was going to become a new force in the season’s retail business. Once the dust settled however, it turned out that social media didn’t have quite the direct impact some had expected. According to Forrester Research eCommerce accounted for 15% of the total holiday sales in 2011, but instead of social commerce, email and search remained the primary drivers accounting for over half of online sales.
The trend that attracted attention this year was the increasing impact of mobile commerce. At her annual presentation on the trends in eCommerce at the NRF Big Show, Forrester’s Sucharita Mulpuru described how 16% of surveyed consumers said they had used their mobile device while shopping during the Thanksgiving holidays. Mobile devices were being used to support the in-store experience as shoppers check store hours, confirm inventory availability and pricing. By the end of the season, mobile accounted for 6% of online retail; about $2 billion in sales.
Smart phones and tablets are becoming largely ubiquitous as 75% of the US population now subscribes to a mobile phone service, and 85% of those phones are expected to be web-enabled by next year. This raises optimization challenges for developers as the variety of screen sizes and browser formats continues to grow. What’s more, your customers most likely interact differently with a mobile site which makes it a mistake to view it as just a mini version of your website.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the most common activity on a mobile device is communication; whether checking email, taking a call, or connecting on a social network.
According to a survey by Ipsos/Yahoo about the activity of mobile device users, shopping on a mobile happens less often than on a PC but often happens outside the home. The main motivations for shopping reportedly come from browsing or receiving a recommendation. Almost two thirds of shoppers reported that they were sometimes disappointed that retailers didn’t have a specialized mobile website or app. They also preferred to shop on a mobile browser than an app by a ratio of three to one.
As retailers face an increasingly fragmented marketplace with customers connecting from a wide variety of channels and devices it is useful to test the rationale for chasing the Omni-Present Consumer. Try digging in to Google Analytics to measure your rate of mobile adoption and the impact mobile has on site activity. Analytics lets you filter results by Mobile to see the impact on Traffic Sources and Sales. An unscientific review of a few stores without mobile websites showed that mobile customers were more likely to be referred by email campaigns than by organic search or a referring website. Given the success of these campaigns the investment in a mobile site would likely improve the poor conversion rate on these visits.
That said maybe mobile conversion rates are not as important as tracking the impact of mobile on other channels. Since mobile customers are more likely to be on the road, it could be convenient for them to pick up their order, or since they are already on a phone might call in the order. In the Ipsos report consumers characterized their mobile device as a “co-pilot” that helped them find information in real-life circumstances. Supporting the mobile co-pilot might be your best strategy for generating sales across all channels of your business.