Remember when e-commerce has replaced physical channels in the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic? Now, m-commerce has all the chances to become the next retailers’ big thing.
Insider Intelligence predicts m-commerce sales to hit $620.97 billion, or 42.9% of ecommerce, in 2024. This number is driven by the increasing use of portable devices and the technological advances that make it easier for users to shop from smartphones and tablets.
The medium via which a shopper completes the purchase makes the difference between m-commerce vs e-commerce. No more, no less. And yet, this difference forces merchants to implement varying approaches to business strategies and customer interactions on mobile and desktop.
In this article, you’ll learn how to differentiate between e-commerce and m-commerce and what advantages the latter may bring to your business. Read on and see if m-commerce is worth investing in.
Historically, ecommerce, or electronic commerce, has implied using a computer or a laptop to complete the purchase. The first known ecommerce transaction was conducted in 1994 in Philadelphia, when Dan Kohn — a 21-year-old economics graduate — sold a CD to a friend who was 300 miles away and paid via encrypted credit card.
Nowadays, ecommerce stands as an umbrella term for all commercial transactions online. Ecommerce transactions go far beyond the exchange of physical goods. People buy services, membership cards, and non-tangible digital products using not only credit cards but also digital wallets, payment service apps, cash-on-delivery, and other payment methods.
The nature of the relationship between a merchant and a consumer also changed, giving rise to many types of ecommerce models, like B2B, B2C, DTC, etc.
M-commerce, or mobile commerce, involves shopping through a mobile device (typically a smartphone or a tablet). The term was originally coined in 1997 by Kevin Duffey to mean “the delivery of electronic commerce capabilities directly into the consumer’s hand, anywhere, via wireless technology.”
Now, m-commerce stands as an extension of larger ecommerce transactions. Nearly half (47 percent) of global consumers say they do their holiday shopping online via smartphones, and about a half of the US population uses phones to research the product online. Smartphones have also started playing an important role in-store, with consumers scanning QR codes or smart shelf tags for more information, special incentives, or loyalty clubs.
Essentially, e-commerce and m-commerce share the same goal: to buy and sell products online. Yet, there are a few substantial differences between the two that make merchants change their approach to marketing and sales.
The biggest e-commerce and m-commerce difference lies in the mobility and portability of the device from which a purchase is made.
E-commerce usually requires a computer or a laptop to shop. But only high-intent buyers who already know what they want to buy or wish to place an expensive, complicated order (as in the case of B2B) will go the extra mile to run a desktop version of the website to place an order. That’s why conversion rates are higher for ecommerce transactions from computers and laptops, and that’s why we say that e-commerce serves to buy.
M-commerce offers the convenience of shopping anywhere you are with a mobile device. Thanks to the portability and ubiquity of handheld devices, consumers have all product info at their fingertips, and retailers can reach out to their audience anytime and anywhere. It has been proven that mobile UX and small screens limit the user to complete the purchase; yet, the mobility of devices allows customers to research the product and a brand. That’s why we say m-commerce serves to drive traffic.
The discussion of mobile commerce vs e-commerce can’t go without location tracking that is realized by different means in each device.
In ecommerce, the only way to learn the location of the shopper is to use the computer IP address. Still, IP addresses give broader regions and never share exact locations, which might affect a merchant’s advertising strategy.
M-commerce allows for more precise geo-fencing based on the smartphone’s GPS signal. The same works for beacon technology, like Bluetooth. M-commerce brands can pinpoint where a customer is at any given moment and engage with them, e.g. send push notifications with coupons, promotions, or other targeted offers.
Another key difference between ecommerce and mcommerce is security. Credit cards are the most common payment method when it comes to ecommerce. Yet, it’s not the safest. The majority of online frauds take place via credit card misuse, including data breaches, credit card theft, and card-not-present fraud.
Fortunately, m-commerce addresses this security gap. The Mastercard survey on new payments reports that 94% of consumers in the Asia Pacific region use emerging payment methods such as digital or mobile wallets, QR codes, and even cryptocurrencies. Customers can also place orders on the go, especially thanks to the mobile website integrations with digital wallets like Apple Pay or Google Pay. The payment preferences shift to mobile for their security and convenience.
Omnichannel retail implies the use of multiple sales and marketing channels to provide a seamless shopping experience. And now it’s more important than ever: customers interact with information from a mix of sources before making a final purchasing decision.
In ecommerce, omnichannel used to be limited in terms of mobility. Highly dependent on computers, ecommerce retailers could provide few options for omnichannel marketing, including website, emails, or videos.
M-commerce may use the same channels of ecommerce and even expand them in a more efficient way. You can serve your customers a pre-roll ad of your product on YouTube, make them learn about your brand on social media, and use in-app push notifications to lure your customers into your store. Thanks to its reachability, mcommerce will be a wonderful addition to your overall ecommerce strategy, driving engagement and conversions.
E-commerce and m-commerce shouldn’t necessarily work in isolation. In fact, an app or a mobile version of your website might be a valuable addition to your overall business strategy.
Here are five top benefits of m-commerce you should consider.
Mobile analytics can provide you with more consumer data than any other device. You can gather your customers’ demographic data (e.g. age, gender, date of birth) thanks to social authentication, their friends on social media and interactions with ads, as well as location.
Even though Apple and Google enacted privacy changes, consumers are more than happy to provide their data in exchange for perks. About 80% of shoppers will share their personal data, like emails, birthdays, and phone numbers, with a brand to receive something in exchange. Use the power of mobile to get deeper customer insights and offer your shoppers what they want.
About 83.89% of the world’s population owns a smartphone nowadays. Imagine how much revenue and how many potential clients you might lose prioritizing only desktop interactions. Especially given that mobile shoppers spend twice as many as other users on in-app purchases.
It is particularly true for those selling to millennials and GenZ. These digital natives were practically born with a smartphone in their hands. They browse product info, engage with brands on social media, use it to compare pricing, etc. And even though not all of them end up completing a purchase, the rise in app downloads and time spent in mobile retail apps fuels overall sales — online and in-store.
M-commerce offers a great way for retailers to communicate with their customers. Phone, texts, emails, online chats — merchants can use them all to provide customer support. In fact, chatbots are becoming a huge trend in m-commerce, with over 54% of consumers claiming they would prefer a chatbot over a human assistant if this saved them time.
Push notifications have also been proven an effective method of customer interaction. Their most illustrative use cases include transactional messaging (shipping & delivery details, order confirmations, temporary passwords), promotional marketing (offers & discounts), or event-triggered messaging (as in sending a note to remind about an incomplete purchase).
Studies show merchants are rewarded for their push notification strategy: nearly 30% of all clickers go on to make a purchase. By customizing messages and tailoring them to the buyer’s journey, you can reduce your cart abandonment rate and secure customer engagement.
While the actual shopping may be a hassle for a mobile consumer, m-commerce can bring enormous benefits to boost one’s brand awareness. It all narrows down to consumer behavior using handheld devices:
Embrace the power of mobile features to drive customer loyalty and increase your brand awareness. Carefully design company-related content on social media, offer in-app loyalty discounts, collaborate with micro-influencers to spread the word about your brand.
The question that retailers should ask isn’t how is m-commerce different than e-commerce, but rather how do I make it a part of my ecommerce strategy.
It’s expected that mobile commerce will drive the entire category of ecommerce retailers. The reasons are multiple: wider reach, accessibility of handheld devices, convenience, and security of payment methods. For businesses, it means higher revenue, enhanced brand visibility, and detailed customer analytics.