The future of m-commerce

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

Although it's growing, the uptake of m-commerce is still far from where it should be. Given the over-reliance on mobile in today's economy, it's surprising that mobile has only recently reached global parity with desktop when it comes to online shopping. In fact, according to recent research by comScore, in areas such as Europe and South America desktop is still the preferred platform.

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

The challenges of m-commerce

Some websites have not been designed to operate with a finger press
Picture: Some websites have not been designed to operate with a finger press

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. There are still far too many websites that work wonderfully when viewed on a big screen, but turn into a complete mess when 'optimised' for mobile. A finger press is great for buttons and swipe menus, but generally the accuracy of a mouse pointer is preferable, especially when browsing through catalogue images or product descriptions.

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Connectivity can also play a part, as although networks are far faster and more stable than they were five years ago, 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.

The solution

Smartphones now come equiped with fingerprint scanners

Smartphone manufacturers are already starting to address many of these problems, introducing the 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

Amazon's next day delivery is a staple for many online shoppers

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.

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.

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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-step 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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