For example, many smartphone users will regularly use their phones for shopping purposes, but a much lower proportion will ever actually make a purchase using their smartphone. So far that’s been the reality of mobile commerce (mCommerce). Instead of using smartphones to make a whole end-to-end purchase, shoppers generally use it as a companion to a wider shopping experience. For the most part, they are, in effect, “mobile browsers” instead of mobile shoppers.
One of the biggest problems is that the user experience of shopping on a smartphone simply hasn’t been good enough. Shopping on small screens could be difficult in the past, particularly if the user was browsing on their mobile web with a 3G connection. Instant response technology has conditioned such prevailing expectations, that if a prospective shopper is presented with a slow or frozen screen or Web page, they’ll often abandon their shopping cart and never return to purchase.
However, Canadians enjoy the ease of technology and with wider 4G connectivity, more users than ever before are expected to use smartphones during their shopping experience. Last year the Ipsos Canadian Inter@ctive Trends Report found that 25% of online Canadians had made a purchase through their smartphone.
Increasing popularity of phablet devices
The speed in which tablets became popular meant many observers thought them to be the future of mCommerce. But smartphone users outnumber tablet users, hugely. In fact, Canadian smartphone ownership has increased by 24% year over year. This is why the growth in popularity of ‘phablet’ devices is interesting in terms of the future of mCommerce – it offers the convenience of a smartphone with a big-screen form factor approaching that of a tablet, which can enable a much easier end-to-end shopping experience.
Smaller businesses, in particular, need to make the mobile shopping experience as seamless as possible. If the mobile experience doesn’t work so well, customers can easily gravitate towards bigger companies offering in-store opportunities for direct purchases. Smaller companies might not have that advantage, and could quickly lose customers if the shopping experience and checkout functionality isn’t up to speed.
In addition to user experience, there is also the recent news from Google concerning how they will rank mobile pages. The search engine will start favouring and ranking pages built with its own fast-loading technology called Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP.
Mobile should be a top priority for small business owners whether they are looking for shoppers to browse their websites or to purchase goods outright. The challenge is to have quality goods at a decent price, together with a mobile experience that persuades people to browse and stay on.
Getting the checkout experience right
If a small business owner wants to encourage shoppers to make direct purchases from their website or app, then the checkout experience has to be great. There are payment systems available that ensure secure, quick and smooth mobile payment processes. Small business owners may also want to explore mobile wallet technology, which allows customers to store and control all of their online shopping information in one device, allowing users to purchase goods (up to a certain monetary value) with a single tap of a smartphone – as long as it is enabled with Near Field Communications (NFC) .
With mobile wallet apps like Apple and Android Pay, the checkout process is simple and customers don’t need to enter their credit card details with each purchase. With the technology now available in new devices, it’s not surprising that the use of mobile wallets is on the rise. For example, last year’s flagship Apple and Android devices, iPhone 6S and Google Nexus 6P, were both NFC capable.
There are certain marketing advantages for a small business to accept payments through mobile wallet technology. For instance, mobile wallets could be integrated with mobile loyalty programs, allowing shoppers to use discounts and get rewards without the pain of fiddling with numerous cards that could get lost or destroyed.
The more people use smartphones and become comfortable shopping with them, the more likely companies without an mCommerce strategy will lose out on available cash flow. This is the same whether we’re talking about mobile browsers or mobile shoppers.
With additional breakthroughs in mobile payment technology, 2016 will be a very exciting time for mCommerce. The question is, is your business ready?
Nancy Harris is executive vice president and managing director of accounting software company Sage. She’s passionate about championing the causes of small and medium sized businesses.
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