Is your business ready for mcommerce?

3 MINS Team

Mcommerce (mobile commerce) will account for the majority of ecommerce by 2018, according to new data from Forrester. Specifically, the research firm says mobile transactions will account for 54 percent of all online retail sales, or a whopping $293 billion, just four years from now. By the end of 2014 alone, Forrester expects tablet and smartphone sales to hit $114 billion, with media, apparel and consumer electronics the hottest mcommerce arenas.

It’s no surprise that even though smartphone owners outnumber tablet owners by about two to one, tablets account for most mcommerce sales, and will continue to do so. In 2018, Forrester projects, $219 billion of mcommerce sales will be on tablets, compared to $74 billion on smartphones.

That makes mcommerce the hottest area of U.S. online retail sales, which are still growing, but more slowly. Forrester projects that by 2018, ecommerce will account for about 11 percent of overall retail sales; it currently accounts for about 9%.

What’s driving mcommerce? Several trends:

“Mobile moments”: Consumers are going online more often than ever and in more diverse environments, creating new opportunities for shopping, either planned purchases or impulse buys.

Gen Y. The 32.5 million members of Gen Y spent more online than any other demographic in the last three months, Forrester says.

The growth of mobile. 200 million Americans own smartphones and 100 million own tablets, up from 62 million and 8 million, respectively, just four years ago.

So far mcommerce acceptance among consumers is far from widespread. Forrester estimates that just 38 percent of smartphone owners and 31 percent of tablet owners will purchase on those devices this year. However, the company expects that by 2018, 55 percent of smartphone owners and 61 percent of tablet owners will buy on their devices. And, of course, mcommerce acceptance varies depending on what you sell and who your customers are. Already, up to 20 percent of sales at some retailers are made via mobile devices.

What’s the takeaway for small businesses hoping to capture mobile sales?

  • Start now and plan early. That way, when mcommerce becomes truly widespread, you’ll be prepared.
  • Know your customers. Are they likely to engage in mcommerce now (Gen Y), in a few years (older Gen Xers) or never (seniors)? Your customer base should shape your approach to mobile.
  • Consider mobile vs. “portable.” There’s a big difference between smartphones and tablets, though they’re often lumped together. Use analytics to see what devices your customers are using. Those who are shopping on tablets are more likely to be using WiFi so they can handle bigger photos and more images per page. Those shopping on smartphones are more likely to be on 3G or 4G networks and the same design that will work on a tablet will just slow them down. Plan and design your mobile website for what your customers use now—and how they’re likely to shop in the future.

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