Mobile Commerce Offers Retailers Huge Opportunities and Significant Technical Hurdles

The consumer tech landscape has shifted drastically over the past five years, and online shopping has been significantly impacted. eCommerce is increasingly being done on mobile devices. For example, a recent study showed that 74 percent of online consumers making back-to-school purchases planned to use their smartphone or tablet to shop, while only 26 percent will use their PC. The growth of mobile commerce provides a major opportunity for retailers, but it also introduces several new technical hurdles.

First, let’s consider the opportunity. The mobile experience is significantly more personal than the PC experience. End users interact with smartphones very differently than they do with laptops. Essentially, mobile devices serve as proxies for their end users — a smartphone’s apps, layout, settings and customizations all reflect the owner’s unique identity. With all this in mind, retailers have the chance to customize and personalize their mobile commerce experience, which ultimately means boosting revenues.

When using mobile devices, consumers want an eCommerce experience that’s even more tailored to their particular shopping habits. When these needs are met, customers will increase their loyalty to a mobile commerce platform and spend more money, as well as recommend it to their peers. Retailers are responsible for properly customizing their mobile platforms, as well as making them operate smoothly.

While personalization helps retailers boost engagement, consumers expect mobile shopping to work just as easily as desktop-based eCommerce and want their mobile shopping experience to be ultra responsive. However, today the speed with which you deliver personalized content (like category pages, product pages, etc.) are 15 times to 20 times slower on average than generalized content like images. This additional delay costs retailers 7 percent to 10 percent in top-line revenue. However, there are several key technical challenges associated with accelerating personalized content for mobile commerce. Retailers must address them to seize this new opportunity.

First, mobile devices often rely on cellular networks to connect to the internet. Existing cellular networks are not as fast or reliable as WiFi and wired networks that PCs rely on. This slows the mobile commerce experience — and eCommerce speed is closely tied to revenue. Slower online shopping platforms lose customers and revenue. When page load times take too long, shoppers are likely to abandon the site and provide negative feedback to friends and family. Even if they complete a transaction, they’ll likely spend less money than they would have if the platform worked faster.

Another challenge is in the end user hardware. Because of their much smaller form factors, mobile devices lack the processing power of PCs, which can also result in slower eCommerce transactions and more frequent timeouts.

Finally, mobile commerce platforms tend to have more “last mile” problems than traditional desktop-based eCommerce platforms. The last mile refers to the final phase of communication between a user and a content delivery network (CDN). A perfect example of the last mile in eCommerce is when a customer clicks to confirm their purchase and make their payment. On mobile, transient issues like packet loss occur more often during the last mile, interrupting the crucial final step of a transaction. Last mile issues can cause customers to abandon their shopping experience and never return. Moreover, they’re often impossible to predict.

Consumers will continue to do more and more of their online shopping through smartphones and tablets. Some brands already generate the majority of their eCommerce sales through mobile platforms. Mobile commerce provides a tremendous opportunity for retailers to deliver unique, personalized customer experiences. To capitalize on this opportunity, however, companies must think hard about how they can address the technical challenges associated with mobile commerce. App-aware technologies, advanced CDN services, and sophisticated app design can all help mitigate these problems. Organizations must consider their options now to stay ahead of the competition.