During the past decade, we have witnessed how brick-and-mortar stores are embracing e-commerce with a number of leading retailers even being forced to close a large number of their merchandise facilities due to the growing pressure from online-based competitors.
At present, e-commerce is an integral part of any business’s growth strategy, while an increasing number of new market players bet directly on entirely online sales at the expense of opening physical stores.
The latest trend in retail trade and provision of services, though, is not that companies prefer to develop their e-commerce capabilities and business practices. We instead witness a shift from “traditional” e-commerce toward wireless and mobile commerce for business as the use of mobile devices is taking over desktop-based consumer experience.
A research by Comscore shows that the time consumers spend with digital media in the United States grew by impressive 7 percent within just a couple of years between 2017 and 2019 – from 50 percent to 63 percent, respectively. In the same period, the percentage of consumers spending their time with digital media on desktop devices decreases from 34 percent of respondents to 23 percent, or less than a quarter of all users surveyed.
There are also large parts of the world where mobile commerce for business is the only chance for a business to reach broader customer base since desktop devices and broadband Internet are prohibitively expensive for the local consumers or are hard to install and maintain. Such areas span large parts of the Asia/Pacific region as well as South and Latin America, where the use of mobile Internet by far surpasses the number of customers that rely on cable Internet.
That is why we can speak not only about the benefits of mobile commerce to business but about the inevitable shift toward mobile e-commerce, or m-commerce, which will sooner than later change the way organizations are selling products and services in an increasingly connected world.
What is M-Commerce or Mobile Commerce?
Briefly speaking, m-commerce, or mobile e-commerce for business, is the business practice of browsing, exploring and selling goods and services online and on mobile devices such as mobile phones, tablets or even smart watches. You should be aware that telephones without an operating system but with a browser i.e., gadgets that are not formally a smart device, can also be used to purchase products online.
M-commerce for business is not the new hot thing; it is a trend within a broader trend of moving toward electronic commerce and online transactions that emerged long before any pandemics. With the global economy getting increasingly interconnected, both physically and digitally, it was inevitable to witness the emergence of m-commerce as mobile devices were getting handier and more powerful in terms of computing power.
In this respect, m-commerce is the natural evolution of e-commerce driven by the arrival of handheld devices with larger screens and more computing power, which in turn enables consumers to perform actions and transactions previously possible only on a desktop computer.
On the other hand, m-commerce and e-commerce are identical at some levels but there are also notable differences. E-commerce and m-commerce are nearly identical in providing the tools and features to complete monetary transactions online – not only selling goods and services but also making financial transfers and booking a hotel room or buying tickets for events or air travel. The main difference between e-commerce and m-commerce is that m-commerce adds the factor of mobility i.e., consumers can perform online transactions from anywhere and at any time.
That being said, business intelligence and mobile commerce should be integral parts of any organization’s long-term business development strategy as mobile devices are now also an integral part of our lives and consumer experience. Monetization of a mobile app is one thing but as consumers shift toward overwhelmingly mobile online experiences, the benefits of m-commerce are becoming hard to overlook.
Actually, e-commerce and more recently m-commerce are disrupting the overall model of selling products and services with the probable exception of manufacturers that sell industrial equipment. Nonetheless, even those industries can benefit from the advantages of m-commerce by selling specific services to their customers through mobile devices. Which in turn leads to the question of what kinds of m-commerce do we have?
Types of Mobile Commerce Apps
As any other new technology and method, m-commerce started as an extension to existing e-commerce practices and platforms. Having a merchandise website or an online store optimized for mobile was just the beginning as eventually m-commerce capabilities gave birth to a whole new group of industries and also gave boost to existing sectors across multiple industry verticals;
We can define three main areas in which m-commerce is flourishing and those are:
- Mobile shopping,
- Mobile banking, and
- Mobile payments.
The benefits of mobile commerce for businesses operating in these domains results in a massive growth of mobile commerce applications that connect sellers and buyers in economic sectors such as:
- Mobile transfers of money,
- Online purchase of tickets and boarding passes,
- Purchases and delivery of digital content,
- Mobile banking,
- Contactless payments and in-app payments,
- Location-based services,
- Mobile marketing and advertising,
- Mobile coupons and loyalty cards.
This list is not exhaustive as mobile commerce enters new industries and adds new transaction types on a daily basis.
Gamification of mobile apps and in-app purchases represent only a small portion of the actual and projected overall market for m-commerce services. The truth is that we move toward miniaturization of all currently available computing devices, which in turn means that m-commerce will play an increasing role in the way both retail and wholesale transactions are being conducted in the not so far feature.
The rise of m-commerce will not obliterate e-commerce, at least because it is just a subdivision of e-commerce, but the market for mobile commerce service will only grow. The rapid development of technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) open even wider horizons before m-commerce as these technologies are now capable of running on mobile devices. For instance, you can make a virtual tour of the Bahamas online on your tablet and a local merchant pop up with a commercial proposal. The use of advanced technologies in m-commerce and e-commerce as a whole knows no limits, really.
5 Key Advantages of Mobile Commerce for Business
M-commerce benefits are not limited to new ways of selling products and services as m-commerce advantages also include the creation of a brand new omni-channel experience, which is not possible with traditional e-commerce.
But let’s explore all the key advantages and disadvantages of mobile commerce one by one.
Advantages of M-Commerce
M-commerce benefits are numerous, depending on your specific industry and market niche, so we are pay attention only to a number of key advantages that apply to the majority of use case scenarios across various industry verticals, mostly in the retail sector.
Better Availability and Customer Experience
E-commerce gives consumers access to a broader range of products and services, but it makes them available all the time and from any location. While e-commerce requires access to a computing device on your desk, m-commerce is not tied to a particular place, enabling you to shop goods and pay for services on the go.
On the enterprise side, advantages of mobile commerce for business include introduction of brand new merchandise channels such as AR that enables to explore products in 3D and select add or remove specific details or properties from a product. In addition, m-commerce apps enable merchants to directly contact their customers via chatbots or messaging apps that work in real time.
Genuine Onmi-Channel Experience
Mobile commerce completes the omni-channel experience that was born with the emergence of e-commerce platforms and online shops. Onmi-channel experience includes selling goods and services at both physical locations and online. Furthermore, you can sell your products only online and still have omni-channel experience by adopting a variety of sales channels such as a proprietary online store, a B2C or B2B merchandise platform or an online platform such as eBay, Amazon or Facebook, which all have merchandising capabilities.
Numerous Online Payment Options
E-commerce started with a pay-on-delivery merchandise model but these times are now gone. Modern e-commerce utilizes numerous online payment methods and payment processors, which speeds up the entire shopping process and makes it possible for a wider customer base to purchase goods and services entirely online.
Over time, payment solutions designed specifically for m-commerce purposes emerged, including methods to make contactless payment via your smartphone at a physical location. This is not a pure m-commerce technology, but both consumers and businesses now have access to a variety of mobile payment methods beyond traditional online payment processors such as PayPal.
Variety of Mobile Commerce Options
Unlike the classic e-commerce model, in which you need a computer and an e-commerce website i.e. online store, m-commerce offers more options for businesses to reach their existing and potential customers.
With m-commerce, you can have a mobile website, a mobile web application or a downloadable mobile app and all these options provide quite similar purchasing experience and customer journey. You can have good results with a mobile commerce website but if you are targeting specifically your existing customers, then a dedicated mobile app will do wonders enabling clients to purchase directly from you within a few clicks, as they know what they are looking for.
Shorter Customer Journey
Mobile browsing differs from desktop browsing while this is even more true for mobile purchases.
Mobile buyers tend to be more impulsive than desktop users, and this creates great opportunities for businesses that know how to present their products in a saleable manner and offer a short buying journey and easy-to-use steps to complete a purchase.
M-commerce also allows multitasking that enables consumers to research and compare prices while exploring the products on offer by each merchant, which is one of the great advantages of m-commerce for businesses that know how to position themselves on the market.
When we look at m-commerce advantages and disadvantages, you can realize that some specific benefits are also mobile commerce drawbacks. We will explore these and other disadvantages of m-commerce in the ensuing paragraphs.
As we said, one of the m-commerce benefits is that users can easily compare prices and explore the specifics of each product or service offering. When comparing mobile commerce pros and cons, you will see that this advantage of m-commerce for consumers is not actually an advantage for businesses unless you have very flexible pricing and you are always positioning yourself in the lower price segment.
On the other hand, consumers are willing to pay a higher price for a quality service or product, but then you face the problem with brand recognition and brand awareness as not all brands are equally popular or known to a wider audience.
When speaking of the advantages and disadvantages of m-commerce, you should also be aware that selling products on mobile is far more challenging in terms of regulatory compliance. Your m-commerce business should comply with numerous tax legislations, online consumer protection laws, online privacy regulations, and other regulations that apply in each country you are servicing. You can avoid that by using one of the pre-built e-commerce platforms but most of them are not specializing specifically in m-commerce.
Actually, the specific mobile commerce pros and cons vary by industry and market niche and depend on your willingness to shift to a business model that requires constant optimization and customization to meet your customers’ very specific needs.
Future of Mobile Commerce for Business
Suppose you want to take full advantage of mobile business intelligence and mobile commerce. In that case, you need to keep in mind a number of key trends in m-commerce that concern m-commerce advantages and disadvantages alike.
First of all, mobile commerce is growing faster in the segment of tablets and not smartphones. It is a natural development since tablets have larger screens and more computing power, which in turn offers a better user experience.
Then, you need to plan for a highly customized mobile commerce experience, especially if you want to retain customers in the long-term. You can use the framework shown below to develop a customized m-commerce experience.
In fact, faster purchasing experience does not automatically translate into less product information and industry surveys reveal that mobile customers, especially smartphone users, are not satisfied with the amount of product info they get in the mobile sites and apps they explore. Hence, you need not sacrifice product and service info at the expense of faster browsing and shorter purchasing process.
Instead, the future of mobile commerce lies with the provision of adequate product info and one-click purchases. The very fact that it is so easy to buy products and services on mobile does not eradicate the fundamental paradigm of a successful deal closure – a well-informed client will close a deal easier and in shorter time if he/she is offered the opportunity to do so.
After you take into account all the pros and cons of m-commerce, you will inevitably realize that jumping on the mobile commerce bandwagon is not merely a good choice but it is a must-do for most retail businesses and a select number of wholesalers.
The promise of m-commerce is far-reaching. It provides advantages not only to business-to-consumer merchants but also to enterprises that operate in the business-to-business sales. It is less likely for a business to purchase products within an m-commerce scenario, but it is well probable that they could buy accompanying services through mobile, opening new possibilities for upselling.
The m-commerce model will not replace the classic e-commerce framework within a few years due to mobile devices’ very physical limitations. You can make them smaller but not as a universal device – smaller screens do not help the growth of m-commerce, for instance. Nonetheless, mobile commerce will grow markedly in the foreseeable future, offering advantages you should try to benefit from, especially within an online merchandise ecosystem that bets on omni-channel experience.