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16.05.17 - by boxchilli
In 2015, Ofcom announced that more Brits were browsing the web on their smartphones than any other device – laptops and desktops are officially old technologies. As with most new technological developments, it was hard to predict the impact of this change but it’s becoming increasingly clear: mCommerce, which is to say shopping online from a smartphone or tablet, is increasingly popular across all age ranges and demographics – and it’s driving some businesses bankrupt.
Smartphones have been around since the early ‘90s, and while it’s hard to remember the heady days when being able to load 15 whole songs, wow on your phone was a feature worth advertising, the patterns of use have changed dramatically over that time. Today, it’s easier to buy a smartphone than a ‘standard’ mobile phone, so it’s no surprise that the apps and clicks are taking over.
The most disruptive feature we’re dealing with today is constant internet access. Most Brits now have a smartphone with mobile internet access, which means that at any time they can consult the vast wisdom of the web to find out when Shakespeare was born, when Queen Victoria died or – more likely – whether a particular product can be bought for less money elsewhere.
Shopping online disrupted the usual sales patterns that bricks-and-mortar and mail-order businesses were used to. While it made sense that people would appreciate being able to order a gift or groceries or a holiday without leaving their office desk, we were all surprised to learn that people like shopping at 2am and it’s been a shock for many bricks-and-mortar retailers how quickly their shoppers have switched to online buying. Opticians are an obvious example: in the 1980s it seemed ludicrous to suggest buying glasses by post, but today millions of pounds are spent buying glasses online.
After a few years, it began to seem like eCommerce was the next natural progression and the obvious heir to both mail-order and bricks-and-mortar stores. Sure, we’d probably always have corner shops – you need somewhere to hold your parcels and when you’ve run out of milk a 3 day wait while it comes direct from the farm in Hampshire is no use – but with the giants like Amazon and eBay selling everything from cots to coffins there’s no real need for any more changes to the system…or is there?
At first glance, it seems like mCommerce is simply an extension of eCommerce: after all, people are still shopping on websites, they’re just doing it from their mobile phones. Heck, in many cases people are shopping on the exact same websites they were using on their desktop machines back in the 2000s. Why should it matter if they’re in Hampshire or Hungary when they click buy?
The reason it matters is two-fold: first, people’s patterns of use are changing and second, the way websites are written needs to change to catch up.
Do you remember the days when comparison shopping meant literally walking around different shops, trying to remember which one offered which items at which prices? Today, even if you’re out on a Hampshire high street you can pull your phone out and quickly check if Amazon offers a better deal on a particular book or DVD than WHSmith’s or Waterstones. You can check an in-store offer against the company’s own website, then click over to a competitor’s mCommerce site and buy from them instead – and all before you’ve left the store. On the flip side, if a friend mentions something you simply must have, you can buy it on your phone while they order another coffee.
Modern mCommerce affects all ages, with high levels of use at all age brackets from teens to pensioners. It also affects most products and most types of shopping – as we’ve seen both impulse buying and comparison shopping have changed. This means that eCommerce stores need to shift to catch up. The ones that do so successfully will be the Google and Amazon our children and grandchildren remember. They may, in fact, be Google and Amazon – but they may not; they may be a Hampshire start up or come out of a Glasgow garage. Only time will tell.
Smartphones are a different way of browsing the web, and many websites aren’t ready to deal with this new world. While we’ve been talking about responsive design for years and building mobile-ready websites for far longer than that, some sites – including some big eCommerce sites – aren’t ready. In some cases, it can be completely impossible to actually purchase an item from a website if you’re using a mobile phone rather than a desktop. This is usually a casual mistake – a pop-up box that can’t be closed, a ‘buy now’ button that’s slid out of view or similar – but the cost to the business of lost sales is increasing.
If you’re concerned that your website may not be ready for mCommerce – and you can perform a very simple check by looking at it from your own smartphone – then we can help. Contact boxChilli today to discuss how to bring your business into this new mobile world.