The McKinsey Global Institute’s “Disruptive Technologies” report warns that:

Today, the biggest challenge for many online businesses is capturing revenue as internet traffic goes mobile. At the same time, low barriers to launching a mobile-based online business make it easier for upstarts to challenge established online players.”

With an increasingly online and mobile community, along with increased marketplace competition, businesses must focus on maintaining and gaining a competitive edge in retail.

Before we look at some shining stars in mobile retail, let’s understand the spending habits of mobile consumers (source: Adobe 2013 Mobile Consumer Survey).

What are mobile consumers buying?

The most popular items that were purchased via mobile devices were clothing, shoes, and jewelry, with 51% reporting purchasing these items in the past 12 months.

These are followed by books, magazines, and newspapers at 48%, and movies, music, and games (excluding mobile games) at 47%.

Are mobile consumers using apps or websites?

The primary way people shop and browse products on their mobile devices are 37% via mobile apps, 33% via mobile optimized websites, and 30% via regular websites.

However, the older segment skewed much higher in preferring to shop and browse regular websites (48%).

What are these consumers doing on their shopping apps?

Chuck Martin, editor of the mCommerce Daily at MediaPost, says that they’re looking for coupons, offers, and deals as well as comparing products.

A note about product comparison: Everyone is doing it and mostly through Amazon. That’s the bad news. According to Martin, here’s the good news:

A majority (67%) of people who (do price comparisons) would buy from the physical store if the store matched the Amazon price … Some retailers such as Best Buy finally came around to matching prices of many competitors, including Amazon, to convert in-store shopping to purchasing.

What product information do mobile shoppers find most helpful?

When purchasing a product on a mobile website or app, people reported that the most helpful items are product descriptions and price, easy checkout process, and consumer ratings or reviews. 

The visual product features that were cited as most likely to increase the likelihood of purchasing a product via a mobile website were side-by-side comparisons of products (44%), 360-degree spin of a product (42%), and interactive zoom or pan on images (38%).

Now let’s look at some retailers who’ve embraced mobile in creative ways and are reaping its rewards.

Create convenience and ease for consumers

How are you enabling m-commerce or mobile commerce? What simple, easy-to-use processes have you put in place to make the lives of your mobile shoppers easier? They have smartphones for a reason; they want their phones to help them everyday, and they want their lives to be simpler.

Walmart’s Scan & Go self-checkout program is a leading example of a retailer creating convenience and ease.

Scan & Go, a feature on the Walmart application, enables users to scan merchandise in certain stores and pay at a self-checkout counter. Walmart has recently updated the app to offer new digital coupon capabilities as well as the ability to scan a QR code on a printed receipt to receive an electronic version.

Easy and convenient, right?

Another great example of m-commerce convenience and ease is found in South Korea at a company called Tesco Homeplus. It created an ingenious way for shoppers to scan product images on subway walls, pay for them instantly, and have them delivered within 30 minutes of getting home.

The results? In 2011 online sales increased 130%. By February 2012, Tesco Homeplus had expanded the virtual stores to more than 20 bus stops and the application had been downloaded 900,000 times, making it the leading shopping app in Korea.

How to think mobile first

  • Design for mobile interactions. The tablet and smartphone user experience needs to focus on touch-driven controls as the primary visitor interaction, rather than mouse clicks and keyboard controls. Take advantage of mobile display controls, such as finger swipe, touch, drag, pinch, and zoom.

    Use simple, large buttons to designate interactions and navigation, such as a large shopping cart or video play button. If designing for mobile retail, incorporate rich product visualization that is optimized for the device type.

    For example, tablets can support a user experience with full-screen interactive zoom and pan, 360-degree spin, and enhanced video functionalities.

  • Optimize for speed. Even a one second delay in mobile page load time equals a 7% loss in conversion, according to the Aberdeen Group.

    Lighten the load on a mobile-optimized website by incorporating dynamic media content, such as images, video, and campaign banners, that automatically adjusts content size, resolution, and format delivery based on the device platform and network speed.

  • Make content ‘findability’ easy. Mobile users have high intent, and the majority of mobile customers use search before they do anything else on m-commerce sites, making mobile site search optimization crucial.

    Use explicit navigational cues for easy browsing. Implement auto-suggest and auto-correct in search input boxes to address the difficulty of typing without a keyboard.