The Mobile Commerce Chicken And Egg Conundrum

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This was a big week for shopping.

Unless you have been living under a rock in North America, we had both Black Friday and Cyber Monday take place this past week. Beyond the riot police and YouTube filming of customer stampedes, fisticuffs and people behaving badly, these two days act as a key indicator as to how the holiday shopping season is going to roll out. Obviously, this is even-more closely monitored, as it also provides a peek into the wealth of nations. Just how much people are spending is directly related to the overall economy and beyond. 

Well, we’re spending… but how are we buying?

As a business professional, who gets up in front of large audiences to talk about consumers and their shifting buying habits, there is some data that points to a large opportunity, wrapped in one of the biggest consumer shifts in buying that our world has ever seen. Let’s put this all into context. AdWeek published the news item, Cyber Monday Sales Totaled $3.45 Billion, Which Set a New Ecommerce Record Up 12% year-over-year. Adobe stated that $3.45 billion was spent online for Cyber Monday alone. This is a 12%+ year-over-year spike. Impressive. The same report from Adobe also stated that for the first 28 days in November, that four-week period showed closed to $40 billion in digital sales. In fact, only one day this month generated less than $1 billion in online revenue.

Billion is the new million.

It’s true. We toss around the number “billion” like it’s any other “million.” These amounts are staggering. Period. Full stop. Still, this is not where it could be. The number could be a lot higher. For years, I’ve been on a “mobile-first” rant. In short: your mobile experience should be better than your desktop experience (think about Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder, Uber and beyond). It also means that your mobile experience should not be a less-than experience from your desktop. It’s an area that brands are failing at. It’s an area that is costing brands huge revenue. If brands are ever going to actualize their true market opportunity, the time has come (and, maybe, passed) to ensure that your mobile experience is not a watered-down version of your desktop website, or a responsive design without the usability and experience that mobile does provide. Your consumers are used to apps and smartphones and more. They’re living it. Your brands are failing them.

The argument against mobile-first.

Too many brands believe that mobile traffic is not significant enough for them to make the full-on mobile-first leap. That, for some reason, their consumers are different. Their consumers don’t follow the macro trends, growth, usage and penetration of smartphones. Hey, it’s your head and your sand, if you ask me. MediaPost published the news item, Cyber Monday Breaks Records, Hits $3.4B in Online Revenues, that boasted similar numbers from the AdWeek piece. Still, the quote that we should all pay attention to is this one:

“Mobile drove 47% of visits to retail websites, about 38% came from smartphones and 9% from tablets. Smartphones also drove purchases with 22% share, compared with 9% from tablets. Conversions were well above holiday averages, with smartphones at 2.8%, tablets at 5.1% and desktops at 6.3%, compared to holiday averages of 1.3%, 2.9% and 3.2%, respectively… The average order value (AOV) on iOS smartphones came in at $141, which remained slightly higher compared with Android smartphones at $128.”

TL;DR: Smartphones were used in one out of every three purchases. That’s staggering.

Many would see this as a massive sign. Mobile continues to grow in marketshare. Mobile still has a long way to go, until it can catch-up and surpass desktop usage. That’s not the sign it signals to me. Mobile is not being given a real chance to shine and prove its dominance. And that, dear brand people, falls directly on our shoulders. Yesterday, Research Brief published, Mobile Smartphone Shoppers Struggling With Navigation. Guess what? Mobile devices accounted for one-third of every sale on Cyber Monday, and according to a comScore report, they also accounted for 20% of the $84.3 billion in US digital commerce spending in Q3 2016. 

What’s happening here?

e-commerce is shifting. Big time. It is moving from desktop to mobile devices, but brands are woefully unprepared. So, the numbers look worse. The numbers don’t look as impressive. Why? According to the Research Brief article: 

“Mobile devices could be even more influential… if some user experience problems were taken care of. Recent research from Monetate indicates that only around half of e-commerce site visits come from mobile devices. Mobile’s smaller share of actual sales is a result of lower conversion rates relative to desktop and smartphones, as mobile users struggle with navigation, difficulty with checkouts, and security concerns. These problems lead to lower shopping cart conversion rates, with just 1 in every 6 shopping carts on smartphones turning into orders, as opposed to 1 in 4 on desktops.”

In short: brands must wake up and start removing all of this friction that their mobile experiences are providing.

From pinching to touching the wrong part of the page and from checkout process and product information, it’s a struggle. Think about it this way: your consumers can hop over to Tinder and find someone to mate with in a fraction of the time that it takes them to add one of your products to a shopping cart and purchase it. Ugh. The data will tell you that mobile is not everything, so you should take your time with. The data will tell you that your consumers are mobile-first, but struggling with your mobile experience, so they’re just not bothering. This makes no sense in our “customer at the center” experience world, that each and every CMO in the world leads off their brand presentations with. 

So, which comes first? Your amazing mobile experience or your belief that most of your consumers are not on mobile, because your analytics don’t speak to how bad your mobile experience currently is?