It’s no secret that a functional ecommerce platform is essential to a successful retail business in 2021, but perhaps more important than ecommerce moving forward is mcommerce, or mobile ecommerce. While ecommerce typically refers to using a computer to conduct transactions such as online shopping or banking, mcommerce is when consumers utilize their mobile device, usually a smart phone or tablet.

By most estimations, more than half of all internet traffic shopping is occurring through a mobile device and it is estimated that by 2025, more than 72% of internet users will access the internet ONLY through their smartphone.

In 2019, pre-pandemic life, the average American spent close to four hours a day on their mobile device. Since March 2020, that average has increased by an hour across the board with many reporting upwards of eight hours a day during peak quarantine times. More and more our phones are our constant companion. But more than that, our phones are what we turn to when we have literally no other options – like during quarantine. Outside of the house, our phones are still what we turn to when we are stuck in a doctor’s office waiting room or alone at a restaurant.

What does all of this mean for retailers?

Put simply, it means that mobile should come first. Mobile-friendly websites are no longer a nice update once you’ve finished designing your perfect desktop website. Your website should be designed with the mobile consumer in mind. If your website takes too long to load or is not easily navigable on a smartphone then you will lose that captive consumer looking to waste time in the doctor’s office waiting room. The fanciest desktop website in the world is meaningless if it’s not user-friendly on a mobile device.

Beyond being able to sort and find products easily and efficiently, a user-friendly mobile site should also take into account payment options. Think about the easiest, fastest way to make sure that shoppers can complete a transaction before their name is called. Shopify and Squarespace websites do this well, as do websites that integrate Apple Pay so that consumers can make their purchase with a simple click.

But it doesn’t stop with the website. If you send out newsletters to your customers, those should also be mobile friendly. Think about when you have free time to read marketing emails. For many, it’s when you’re waiting somewhere and scrolling through your inbox looking for something to pique your interest. Make sure that you’ve linked items in your newsletter to seamlessly integrate with your website so that you don’t lose customers who can’t find what originally caught their eye.

Do I need an App?

While apps are shiny and fancy and tend to sound like a good idea, they are not always the best option, particularly for smaller businesses. Apps perform best as part of a more interactive digital marketing experience, rather than a purely transactional approach. Think about the retail apps you use the most and why you use them – more often than not, they will have some sort of dynamic rewards system in place and take the place of the key tags of the past. The Starbucks app, for example allows users to earn stars, find locations, place an order, access special offers, and play seasonal games.

Apps are costly to build and also require a high buy-in from the customers. In order for an app to be successful, you have to have a truly dedicated customer base who will not only commit to giving away valuable real estate on their smart phone to your business, but will also continue to use it regularly. A well designed mobile website can achieve most of the basic functions of an app without the cost and while being accessible to all users without requiring a download.