Shopping on phones takes big leap forward

The use of smartphones to make purchases is taking an enormous leap ahead of other devices, as evidenced in recent big holiday shopping days. Many traditional retailers, however, are still scrambling to catch up with this tectonic shift in how the public buy.

Purchases made using computers are fast outpacing transactions in physical stores, and while most buys are done on personal computers or laptops, mobile phones are soaring ahead as the device of choice – due, largely, to the bigger screens that smartphones have and the increasing availability of apps from retailers that show their products and services clearly and have easy ways to check out.

Indeed, not having to go through the cumbersome – and, frankly, off-putting – exercise of typing in credit card and delivery details on a smartphone, as many customers’ data is stored on ecommerce sites, is also leading to the boom in their usage of making purchases, as is the new introduction of such mobile payment systems as Apple Pay. Just view the product, and a few taps later and it’s yours.

In the United States, the National Retail Federation, the largest representative retail group in the world, predicts that bricks-and-mortar sales will grow just 4% in the run-up to the peak Christmas shopping period. Meanwhile, the digital analytics firm comScore forecasts that in the same period, sales on desktops will leap 13% – and on mobile devices a huge 33%.

The recent Black Friday shopping extravaganza in the US – now being aped in Britain, to chaotic scenes as customers fight over deeply discounted products – saw a rise in the use of mobile devices being used, according to analysts. Many of those people may well have been in physical stores at the time, but while researching items online, using their smartphones, found better deals there.

Retailers engaged in ecommerce will therefore need to ensure that their sites employ responsive design so they’re viewable and fully functional on smartphones as well as tablet computers. Leading ecommerce content management systems, such as Magento, to allow for easy configuration of this, and a Magento developer can have it set up in no time, so that clients are primed to take advantage of the rapid rise in mobile shopping.

Photo: iPhone by GONZALO BAEZA licensed under Creative commons 4