Countless articles published over the past couple of years have conveyed a clear message – mobile is the metaphorical elephant in the room that can no longer be ignored. Statistics from 2015 have graphically illustrated the rise of mobile, with Google reporting back in May that the volume of mobile searches has surpassed desktop globally, and this is only trending upwards. As is almost always the case, many B2C companies have already made large inroads into effectively leveraging mobile, but the larger B2B sector is treading cautiously behind. With mobile set to continue to thrive and dominate the digital landscape, 2016 will undoubtedly lead to a greater number of companies, both B2C and B2B, prioritising mobile at a level that reflects their market and audience.
Here, in Part One of MTM’s digital predictions for 2016, we will discuss how mobile shopping is changing, how to understand your customer’s choices and the impact different devices have on their behaviour.
Rise of M-Commerce
It has been almost 20 years since the term ‘m-commerce’ was first coined way back in 1997. Japanese company I-mode launched the first m-commerce Internet platform in 1999 with other companies quickly following suit. However, while various surveys and user statistics indicate the strength of mobile, m-commerce is still yet to gain traction as a core platform to actually complete purchases. Various reports throughout 2015 show low conversion levels in the region of 15% for mobile transactions and this figure is even lower in the B2B arena, estimated at just 4%, according to research by CPC strategy.
This gap will undoubtedly reduce in 2016, especially in the B2C arena. According to a report by Digi-Capital, revenue from mobile commerce is projected to reach $700 billion by 2017 so it’s clear barriers are falling fast. This is said to be due to user’s comfort levels in using mobile devices to make purchases increasing, which itself is a result of higher levels of trust in the technology and mobile devices themselves. Easier and more practical payment methods, as well as ever expanding smartphone screen sizes which improve the usability of m-commerce sites and the visibility of products, have also had a impact. According to Mintel, the popularity of tablet and phablet devices will dissolve many of the barriers to m-commerce, such as small screens and security concerns. A growing proportion of new smartphones now having screens larger than 5-inch and advancements in mobile anti-virus software has led to more robust security. Equally, ecosystems like Apple’s iOS are considered to be secure by design and far less vulnerable to malware, viruses and scams compared to Android. There is also a trend towards users regarding security as the responsibility of the seller, making brand trust essential.
Understanding customer behaviour across devices
One thing which is abundantly clear is that marketers are really beginning to see the benefits of extending and optimising e-commerce to mobile devices by creating responsive or mobile specific sites. Well established brands are investing huge sums to transform their mobile experience, moving from “mobile responsive” to a “mobile first” approach. Thisoften takes the form native mobile applications, which can offer extensive data related to the user’s location, usage patterns and preferences in order to create personalized, fluid experiences, rather than simply providing a mobile version of the regular website. In several sectors, this is increasingly required to compete with the growing number of dedicated mobile first businesses, such as Uber, which have deep pockets and a need to grab market share.
Increasingly investments are being made to understand the decision-making and purchasing patterns over mobile, and the context in which the platform is used as part of the e-commerce user journey. For instance, many people use mobile to initially research and save a product with later intentions to make the purchase on desktop where the larger screen size enables a clearer representation of the product. Mobile marketer reported in a study last year that around two thirds of consumers start the research stage of the purchasing process on their smartphones (Mobile Marketer). This demonstrates what is often overlooked or misread in conversion rates, about how influential m-commerce can be in the initial decision-making process with a significant effect on the subsequent purchase.
The psychological aspects of mobile touch screen interfaces are significant in the cognitive decision-making process. Psychologists have long been aware of the correlation between touch and purchase that stems from the primitive perception, which is also known as the “endowment effect”, that touch equates to ownership. Touching the product on a screen is this effect’s digital equivalent. Regardless of any scepticism, marketers that are yet to do so are likely to begin optimising mobile commerce sites to take advantage of the latest touch screen capabilities. With features such as pinch to zoom and double tap offering considerable benefits by allowing users to see greater image detail, and overall provide a richer and more interactive experience that meets the user’s requirements to purchase.
An omnichannel experience that meets expectations
Before the increase in Internet enabled devices, shopping online was often a linear process, which often began with the click of a mouse and ended with typing in payment details. However the abundance of technology has meant the customer journey no longer takes place solely on one device, but rather across multiple platforms. Users have not only changed their behaviour and purchase journey but also their expectations. Customers expect and even assume that a seamless integration will occur across devices, where basket content, purchase history and personalised offers transcend between platforms making it possible to use a range of devices in the transactional process without losing progress.
Market leader Amazon is unsurprisingly an expert when it comes to offering a harmonised and intuitive experience that remains uninterrupted across channels. With the purchase cycles becoming longer, Amazon offers a richer user experience that accommodates the lengthier transactional processes. Through providing the capability for users to store a multitude of items, for a seemingly infinite time, Amazon ensures that the user can pick up the journey where they left off on any device.
Not all companies have the resources of Amazon, namely the sheer magnitude of stock and logistical prowess, making it harder for many businesses to offer the same level of flexibility when it comes to delaying purchases. For businesses where stock levels are finite, a compromise needs to be made to meet the user’s expectations but with consideration paid to realistic business needs. For B2C mail-order fashion giant ASOS, where demand is often high and stocks limited, a 60 minute reservation period was introduced into the checkout process. Although this limits the time a user has to make a purchase, ASOS has a system where once the shopping basket expires, all items are transferred to a ‘saved basket’ where the user can restart their journey, ensuring viewed items are easily found again for up to 60 days.
Considerations for B2B m-commerce sites
In the B2B sector, purchase cycles are particularly long and complex meaning an increased integration of desktop is involved in the entire purchase process. Conversion takes more time in B2B commerce sites than in B2C, B2B purchases can be higher cost and an investment for the company which often involves multiple people who influence or are involved in the decision making process. However, the availability of an m-commerce site is just as crucial for these companies as people are increasingly demonstrating similar expectations in both their personal and professional lives.
With around three quarters of B2B users reaching their phones to make initial purchasing decisions, this is clearly a viable platform to reach the majority of B2B customers. B2B companies will do well to emulate Amazon’s efforts, providing an omnichannel presence that embraces the dynamic and busy lifestyle of their customers and enables the purchase cycle to be picked up at any stage. Additionally features that meet the user’s requirements should be integrated into the commerce process on mobile to push prospects through the conversion funnel. For instance, filters that allow users to compare product specifications, price scale, and automated emails where customers can continue to engage across devices. These simple functions are a benefit that cannot be overlooked in the digital era, where competitors are accessible at customers’ fingertips.
Look our for part two of MTM’s 2016 predictions and tips on how to maximise your digital sales opportunities.