The future of m-commerce

M-commerce has come a long way since the term was coined in 1997, but how will it change in future to meet customer expectations?

Man using mobile payments in front of a night background

Mobile commerce (m-commerce) sales are swiftly on the rise. According to Statista figures, sales are projected to hit a staggering $3.56 trillion in 2021, a 22.3% increase on the $2.91 trillion registered in 2020.

While some people still prefer using their trusty desktop PC or laptop for online shopping and making transactions, in recent years m-commerce has taken the lead. As the number of mobile users grow and with COVID-19 restrictions forcing more of us to shop online, m-commerce's position is only strengthening.

However, while the general trend is pointing upwards, m-commerce isn't taking off as quickly as many had expected. According to research conducted by ComScore across three key US spending days – Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday – desktop it still widely used for online transactions.

The shift towards mobile may be a gradual one, but retailers and developers are realising the need to adapt their services to meet customer expectations. There are many obstacles faced by m-commerce, and here we look at what they are, some potential solutions and what the future may hold.

The shift towards mobile may be a slow one, but retailers and developers are realising the need to adapt their services to meet customer expectations.

The challenges of m-commerce

A person online shopping on a mobile while also using a laptop

Although it's almost inevitable that retail purchases will eventually be made almost entirely online, there are a number of reasons that customers remain sceptical about the idea of ditching their desktops.

Firstly, the experience offered by mobile is still inferior to that provided by desktops. Even in 2020, there remains far too many websites that work wonderfully when viewed on a big screen, but fail to scale correctly when 'optimised' for mobile. And while a finger press is great for buttons and swipe menus, the accuracy of a mouse pointer is preferable, especially when browsing through catalogue images or product descriptions.

Connectivity can also play a part, as although networks are far faster and more stable than they were five years ago thanks to the arrival of 4G and 5G, it's not always a certainty that you'll have a reliable connection. There's nothing worse than spending an hour picking the right item, only for your connection to drop as you go to the checkout. It's a frustrating experience that often results in users deciding to hold off on making the actual purchase until they're home.

Users are also generally less comfortable with the idea of entering payment details into a mobile device. Despite improvement to mobile OS security over the years, there's still a perception that mobile devices are less secure than their desktop counterparts.

Solutions to common m-commerce problems

A smartphone with a fingerprint scanner displayed on the screen

Smartphone manufacturers are already addressing many of these problems, introducing technologies to make transactions more secure, including fingerprint readers that protect devices from unauthorised access.

Retailers are starting to make the experience better too, by introducing apps that have been designed from the ground up to provide a more seamless experience compared to a mobile web store.

Additionally, social networks are making it easier to buy products without even leaving the apps and websites shoppers feel most comfortable using. Just hit the 'buy' button in Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and the transaction can be completed in a familiar environment.

One-click checkouts are also becoming more popular, meaning customers no longer have to enter all of their payment details with the fear someone's looking over their shoulder. Add into the mix OneTouch from PayPal, and it's giving customers even more peace of mind.

However, there's still some way to go before customers will happily scrap the desktop to shop online.

The future of m-commerce

Business woman using mobile payments and online shopping on a virtual screen

By 2026, Ovum predicts that providing a fast experience will be vital for retailers' success, and that's whether they're providing an experience on mobile or desktop. This means whatever a customer is doing, they will be able to buy something instantly and know it's on the way to their home or office as soon as they hit 'confirm'.

This will also filter down to the way customers expect their items to be physically shipped to them. Thanks to schemes such as Amazon Prime, customers expect items to be delivered the next day at the very least, with some retailers such as Argos offering same-day delivery. This will become increasingly important across the e-commerce board.

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As is the case across all sectors, customers expect their shopping experience to be more relevant to their lives and this will mean data analysis and AI will become a vital part of m-commerce. Suggestions and recommendations will become a crucial tools for retailers, combining social media activity, friend recommendations and previous searches to tailor the experience to them, whether they're accessing stores on web or using an app.

Payments will also have to adapt to become more secure. It's likely we'll see retailers start to experiment more with authentication, whether that's by using biometric methods, two-factor authentication or passing the baton to third parties such as PayPal to process the transaction in a secure manner.

M-commerce will provide great opportunities for retailers to increase revenues in the coming years, but the customer experience will become increasingly important too and this should form the centre of every retailer's business strategy.

Making experiences fast, relevant and secure are three trends that should resonate with anyone developing an app, whatever sector their retail business falls into.

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