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The sophomore era of m-commerce


The age of m-commerce has reached its second stage, with device penetration soaring in the UK and abroad, the retail sector finally responding to its implications, but the market as a whole still far from maturity.

A Barclays Corporate report entitled simply ‘The future of m-commerce’ predicts the percentage of sales made via a mobile device will triple from 3% in 2014 to 9.1% in 2019.

This growth rate of 231% far outpaces the predicted rise in online sales of 44.5% and eclipses the expected growth of just 8.1% in the retail sector as a whole.

By the end of the decade, mobile sales should total around £32 billion, a consequence both of retailers catering more for the mobile market, and mobile devices’ better m-commerce capabilities too.

At present, mobile devices are still used primarily for calls and messaging, with 93.1% of people using their handsets in this way, followed by 74.6% who use theirs for internet and email browsing.

Scheduling, photography and entertainment (e.g. listening to music) complete the top five uses – and then comes m-commerce, incorporating both buying and just browsing, at a 35.9% share at present.

The Barclays Corporate report points to this statistic as “emphasising that retailers have the potential to engage with a large audience via mobile channels”.

And it’s not all about smartphones – tablets, including those that are incapable of making a telephone call or sending a message, account for more than twice the m-commerce sales of smartphones.

The report adds: “Their larger screens make these devices ideal for shopping online and have provoked a trend for larger phone screens.”

Interestingly, the study found a broad range of usability issues impacting the success of m-commerce sales, mostly representing a problem for a single-digit percentage of people.

Among these, 4% of people said their data connection isn’t good enough to shop online, 3.3% find their device incompatible with many sites, and 2.2% said mobile sites are poorly designed.

Just as many – 2.2% again – said mobile sites often only display a limited number of products, nearly 13% said it’s too hard to get a true feel of the product, and 15.5% said they can’t see products clearly on a mobile site.

Taken together, even the smallest percentages start to stack up into a major problem for m-commerce retailers – which is why it is crucial to have a truly responsive mobile site with good cross-compatibility on all devices, operating systems and screen resolutions.

As more retailers embrace forward-thinking m-commerce site design in this way, the industry’s forecasted rapid growth rate should emerge in the years to come, helping smartphones and tablets to reach full maturity as a means of making all kinds of purchases.