How to Ditch the Last-Mile Hiccup in Mobile Commerce

The COVID pandemic has accelerated the shift away from brick-and-mortar retail to eCommerce. But within eCommerce, there’s another significant trend unfolding: the rise of mobile commerce (m-commerce).

A forecast from Business Insider Intelligence estimates that mobile commerce revenues in the U.S. alone will reach $488 billion by 2024, a massive increase from just $42 billion in 2015.

According to the data, m-commerce will account for 45% of all eCommerce sales in 2024, compared to just 12% of eCommerce sales in 2015. Retailers can find a booming revenue stream in the burgeoning mobile commerce market. But to take advantage of this opportunity, retailers must overcome key technical challenges.

Mobile commerce allows retailers to deliver a much more customized online shopping experience than traditional eCommerce delivered on PC devices. Consumers have a much more personal relationship with their mobile devices than they do with their laptops; smartphones, in particular, serve as extensions of their owners, with people tailoring their apps, layout, home and background screens as their preferences dictate. According to the study referenced above, $419 billion in eCommerce revenue will come just from smartphones in 2024.

Amazon already has an advanced mobile commerce platform that offers an engaging customer experience. It’s not too late for competing retailers to capitalize on the rise of m-commerce by personalizing their mobile platforms to provide the highly customized experience that smartphone and tablet users have come to expect. But with fewer resources than Amazon, these retailers will be faced with some new technical hurdles.

In eCommerce, the slower the experience, the less revenue is generated. There are two reasons why moble commerce lags here: one is the way mobile devices download content and the other comes from retailer efforts to personalize the buying experience.

In general, cellular networks are slower and lack the reliability of Wi-Fi and wired networks. Naturally, a slower internet network means a slower mobile commerce experience. This can lead to a particularly tricky problem I call the “last-mile” hiccup.

The last mile is the final step of transmission between a CDN and an end user. Think about a customer checking out after they’ve added items to their shopping cart. The main disadvantage with last mile hiccups is that they happen in the segment of the internet that is owned by third-party networks like ISPs and mobile networks.

Mobile commerce platforms encounter unpredictable last-mile problems (such as sudden packet loss) more frequently than traditional eCommerce platforms. Last mile issues come at the worst possible time and will often cause users to give up on their purchase. Many of these frustrated customers will never come back.

The other major of source of delay for mobile commerce comes from serving dynamic, personalized content, which as noted earlier, mobile apps increasingly leverage. Static or generic content like images and banners can be cached and accelerated by CDNs. But mobile apps tend to lag when delivering dynamic content such as intelligent searches and custom APIs.

E-retailers fully understand the importance of ultra-responsive mobile apps; however, traditional infrastructure was designed only to speed up static content and not dynamic content. Today, the delay from downloading dynamic content is 15-30 times higher than static content. Eliminating this delay is vital to boost mobile commerce platforms’ consumer engagement.

Retailers must prioritize the booming mobile commerce market to survive in a rapidly changing landscape. The above issues can be overcome, but eCommerce players need to plan ahead and evaluate appropriate solutions.

There are some tools — such as app-aware technologies that learn real user interaction and accelerate app performance — that can help. Retailers have to first recognize the technical challenges of mobile commerce and then consider how they can best address them.