Mobile’s Influence on Online Shopping Behavior

January 25, 2016


Online retailers need to pay close attention to the increasingly important role that mobile devices play in shopping behavior. An effective mobile strategy can provide a solid foundation for sales growth, since 46.4 percent of online U.S. retail shopping traffic is now through mobile devices, according to a recent IBM report.

Because shoppers tend to use their mobile devices – smartphones, tablets and laptops – in different ways, retailers need to develop a comprehensive approach that makes it easy for shoppers to gather information, narrow their choices and complete their purchases regardless of platform. Here are four suggestions for capitalizing on mobile shopping behaviors: 

  1. Offer an engaging mobile app. For many consumers, smartphones are the first point of engagement with a brand or retailer. A recent Iowa State University study, “Mobile apps and online reviews influence consumer behavior,” points to a direct link between mobile apps and store purchases. Customers who downloaded a branded app and continued using it for three months increased spending by 19 to 48 percent.

That means developing an appealing and engaging app can be the first step in a sales-building mobile strategy. “It could be a total game changer if a company provides an app that’s well functioning and offers some consumer benefit,” said Su Jung Kim, lead author of the Iowa State University study.

  1. Add video to the mix. Shoppers are watching more and more videos on their mobile devices. A recent eMarketer study says U.S. adults will spend an average of 1 hour, 16 minutes each day with video on digital devices in 2015. One reason is that consumers carry their devices with them throughout the day, making it easy to look at videos during personal downtime.

But the study notes that consumers prefer “short form” videos, typically 1 to 3 minutes on their smartphones, and “long form” videos on their tablets. That means online retailers can develop two versions of a video – such as a product demonstration or endorsement – for different devices.

  1. Make it easy to search. Consumers rely heavily on their mobile devices when searching for products or services. That means embedding search function into a mobile app or a mobile-friendly website is vital for capturing shoppers’ early in the process.   Search features should be consistent across all platforms, including desktops, to make it easy to find desired products, put them in the shopping cart and complete the sale.
  1. Build a cross-platform strategy. Don’t limit yourself to a mobile app for smartphones or a video for tablets. That’s because consumers often switch from device to device as they move through the purchase process.

“Smartphones browse, tablets buy, as noted in the IBM report. That report found smartphones drove 33.7 percent of all online traffic compared with 12.4 percent for tablets. But tablets led to 12.4 percent of all online sales while smartphones accounted for 10.7 percent. Tablet users also averaged $98.56 per order, versus smartphone users, who averaged $92.37 per order.

Also, be sure to integrate the desktop into your cross-platform strategy. Many consumers like to look at large-size images of clothing, accessories, gifts and other types of products before making a purchase. They might find what they like on a smartphone or tablet, but wait until they get home before placing an order with your store.

When it comes to understanding mobile consumer behavior, online retailers need to recognize that we live in a multi-screen world – smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops. Knowing when, why and how consumers use their devices can provide a solid foundation for sales success in the coming year.

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