Everything we hear these days is about how big mobile is, and how it’s going to be even bigger going forward. 2016 was the year of mobile, they say. So 2017 is definitely going to be the year of mobile, they say. Mobile payments are expected to hit more than $90 billion this year, up from $12 billion just five years ago. By all appearances, this train isn’t slowing down.
The Mobile Gap
Studies show that people touch their phones 2,167 times per day. Therefore, they should be spending billions per day as well, right?
Not exactly. A breakdown of time spent on mobile vs. desktop computers shows that adult shoppers spend 59 percent of their time, but only 15 percent of their dollars, on mobile. This phenomenon is called “webrooming.” Consider that 69 percent of 18-36 year-old smartphone owners have webroomed, while only half have “showroomed” (actually visited a physical shop location).
This means that more and more often, the buying cycle is getting longer as customers spend more time online researching their purchases before actually buying.
So, why is this happening?
Limitations for Online and Mobile
If you’ve ever shopped online before, you know some of the answers already. The difference between the experience of shopping at brick-and-mortar locations vs. online (mobile or otherwise) still carries logistical limitations. For instance, recent studies suggest that 62 percent of American shoppers find shipping costs to be a significant deterrent to online shopping, while 55 percent of Canadian shoppers object to being unable to see or touch their products before purchase (and 40 percent of Canadian shoppers don’t want to wait for shipping).
In addition, if you’ve done any shopping on mobile, particularly inside and outside of Asia, you’ll know that in Western markets user experience continues to be a sticking point, especially when compared to the more mature mobile landscape of the Asia-Pacific region, which encompasses half the world’s mobile phone subscribers. For Western shoppers, 31 percent are concerned about security when shopping on mobile. They’re also concerned about connectivity. A UK survey found 41 percent of shoppers express concern about Wi-Fi connectivity while shopping, while 27 percent express concern about mobile connectivity in general while shopping.
How Can We Bridge the Gap?
While the prospect of converting all that mobile browsing activity into actual purchases sounds problematic, retailers do have options, ranging from short-term fixes to long-term strategies.
Obviously, improving the mobile user experience is a goal worth pursuing, in both the short and long term, focusing on optimizing mobile landing pages for conversion with standardized page elements, minimal load times and clear product images that encourage curious shoppers to take a closer look.
However, there are two other longer-term avenues that are worth exploring.
If you’re reading this, you probably already know that companies that are brick-and-mortar only are under fire, with as many as one-third of all shopping malls projected to close in 10 years. However, you probably also know that online-only isn't the future either, considering that Amazon.com, previously known as the undisputed leader in e-commerce, has entered the brick-and-mortar space with bookstores and its acquisition of Whole Foods.
Online-to-offline conversions are a powerful way to drive more purchases. Google points out that 76 percent of smartphone users who perform a “near me” search visit a storefront within 24 hours, and 28 percent of those searches convert to an actual purchase.
Speaking of Google, another powerful way for mobile merchants to ensure their messages are resonating with relevant prospective customers is to look to paid search in general, and Google Shopping specifically.
Google Shopping is the search giant’s take on e-commerce, and displays image-based product listing ads (PLAs) for thousands of retailers online. While mobile marketers continue to struggle to bring shoppers to the virtual checkout counter, Google Shopping saw enormous 2016 success, with clicks increasing more than 170 percent, sales more than doubling and revenue increasing more than 50 percent.
Part of what makes SEM (and Google Shopping in specific) so powerful is its direct connection to user intent. Google Shopping ads appear on search engine results pages (SERP), a literal result of shoppers intentionally typing in queries for products in which they’re already interested and significantly more likely to buy than lower-commitment window shoppers.
PLAs also enjoy dominant page real estate on Google SERPs. Don’t take my word for it, try performing any kind of search for any kind of product plus your ZIP code on Google using your mobile device. You’ll note that these Google Shopping ads completely dominate the page, even crowding out the No. 1 organic search results.
Mobile commerce remains a challenging and competitive space, but intelligently exploring new channels, particularly online-to-offline and intent-based channels, can yield powerful results for those willing to explore.
Chaitanya Chandrasekar is CEO and a co-founder of QuanticMind, a predictive advertising management platform.