This article is part of our February 2019 series about mobile. Click here for more.
More people own a mobile device than a toothbrush, estimates show.
Indeed, the vast majority of Americans–95%–own a mobile phone, and these devices are now officially the most popular way to shop online, according to the Pew Research Center.
The 2018 holiday season, which saw record-breaking mobile sales, as shoppers ditched their laptops and PCs for iPhones and Androids, also can attest. In addition, one in five American adults are now “smartphone-only” Internet users–meaning they have no home broadband at all.
These trends indicate that a mobile shopping revolution is on its way, experts told CMO.com. This means exciting changes: Forget credit cards. Soon customers will be checking out with their faces. Crowded dressing rooms will be replaced with virtual try-ons at home. Cars will check passengers into their flight, and eventually online shopping won’t require an Internet connection.
What’s behind the mobile revolution? Let’s take a look at six leading trends.
A hot topic since 2015, progressive web apps (PWAs) are actually here, said Peter Sheldon, senior director of strategy at Magento, an Adobe Company. (CMO.com is owned by Adobe.)
“The promise of PWAs is they speed up the mobile web, deliver sub-two-second page loads, and give that instant gratification you feel with a native app,” he told CMO.com.
PWAs–think of them as mobile Web apps on steroids–enable websites to sync in the background, load new pages in the blink of an eye, and load even when there’s no network at all. In the context of shopping, faster transactions mean fewer abandoned carts, higher conversion rates, and higher profit.
So far, PWAs have been a luxury for big-spending brands such as Starbucks and Tinder–the dating app’s PWA cut load times from 11.91 to 4.69 seconds–but they’ll soon become table stakes, experts said.
“My prediction is that by 2020 or 2021, the entire web–every site that was once responsive–will reach end of life,” said Sheldon, who heads up the PWA Studio at Magento. “This will be a transformational shift for every retailer.”
The bar of entry for PWAs is lowering, added Jamie Huskisson, founder of JH, a U.K.-based e-commerce agency. “For the brands who have their eye on technology, who are always looking for a competitive advantage, PWAs are an opportunity to leapfrog competitors,” he told CMO.com.
2. Augmented Reality Shopping
Augmented reality (AR), once famous for powering Pokémon Go, is coming of age and will soon become a mainstream play for mobile shopping, Huskisson said.
“Devices are becoming ever more capable of supporting AR features, particularly Apple with their hardware and SDK tools. ... We’ve already seen Ikea show how useful and playful this can be for furniture,” he said. “Soon other verticals will identify the benefits of showing the scale, detail, and context of their products using AR.”
Other brands that are working with AR include Sephora: Its mobile app, Virtual Artist, empowers customers to experiment with different shades of lipstick, and it even scans a user’s face to reveal the person’s “Color IQ.”
Clothing brands also are using AR to offer virtual dressing room experiences, Huskisson pointed out.
“ZOZO is taking this a step further by leveraging imaging tech to produce at-home 3D body scans to ensure clothes fit perfectly,” he said.
To enable that, the Japanese clothing retailer mails customers a futuristic “ZOZOSUIT” that allows users to see themselves in 3D on their phones. Ordering custom-fit clothing is easy via the brand’s app.
“This is a big leap forward from stepping into a laser-mapping booth,” Huskisson added.
3. One-Click Payments
Online retailers rejoiced when the patent expired on Amazon’s 1-Click ordering, back in September 2017. Valued at $2.4 billion annually, the fiercely protected 1-Click button allows Amazon to store customers’ credit card details, removing user indecision and cart abandonment–both major revenue losses for all retailers. Now it’s open season on 1-Click shopping, and experts said they expect widespread adoption.
“Since Amazon’s patent expired, both mobile OS and desktop browsers can now keep credit cards in a user’s digital wallet,” said Brendan Falkowski, a pioneer of responsive mobile technology and founder of Gravity Department. “That makes payment input much simpler than manually keying in data and sometimes eliminates a processor when apps support the OS-level wallet. ... It’s just becoming more normal to see Apple or Amazon Pay available in checkout.”
Added Huskisson: “Native, one-click payments on mobile browsers via Apple and Google wallets save time and avoid data entry in public places. That’s all wrapped up in security and authentication measures like Face ID that will be in the hands of more users.”
In other words, searching for credit cards and fussing with expiration dates will become a thing of the past, as checking out with a smile becomes the norm.
4. Screenless Experiences
Roger Woods, director of mobile product and strategy at Adobe, is excited about meeting the needs of users who are starting to crave “screenless” experiences.
“I’m working with one hotel chain that is looking to do voice-enabled hotel rooms and checkouts,” he said. “Using a voice conversational agent, the guest can just say, ‘I’m checking out,’ and never see a screen. An API is being called by the voice agent to do the same thing [as an app], but to the consumer it’s a more seamless experience.”
In the near future, Woods said, it will be his car that asks him whether he has any luggage to check in, or if he’d like to change his seat, while he’s driving to the airport.
5. Universal Mobile Payments
When Woods was traveling in China, he noticed that mobile payments were far more advanced than those in the Western world.
“I tried to use cash in taxis, and they got mad. They wanted me to use digital payment, like WeChat Pay,” he told CMO.com. WeChat has over 1 billion users, and 800 million of them use the WeChat Pay function to pay retailers and their friends.
Meanwhile, no single U.S. mobile payment has become universal, leaving the door open for competition from abroad. “In the U.S., we’re trying to simplify payments, but everybody’s got screens,” Woods said. “Why not follow the model that works for a billion people in China, with code-scanning payments?”
In the next few years, Woods said he expects mobile payment solutions to become as mainstream in the United States as it is in China. Chinese video-sharing app TikTok is going global, and China’s Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent have the infrastructure to enjoy the same success with payments, he said.
6. Contextual Commerce
As retailers strive to remove all speed humps from the mobile shopping journey, soon every online mobile moment will be shoppable, said Carolyn Breeze, head of Braintree Australia, a PayPal-owned payments provider.
“This approach to shopping saves time for the consumer as they don’t have to go through the arduous process of looking up a merchant, selecting the item they saw, and paying from there,” she told CMO.com.
That means if a person sends a friend a picture of a cool pair of sneakers on WhatsApp, the buy button will be right there in the app. The friend won’t have to go hunting.
“This is achieved through the ‘discovery platform’ acting as a content aggregator and owner of the checkout experience,” Breeze said. “The merchant can have a direct relationship with the customer via third-party channels rather than risk losing them to potentially conversion-slashing click-throughs and redirects.”
The result is a world where a merchant can sell anywhere, and conversion rates will hockey-stick.
“Skyscanner is an example of an early adopter of a contextual commerce platform,” Breeze said. “They created a direct-booking platform on top of Braintree Extend, where it hosts the entire checkout and securely connects multiple airlines and partners to complete the checkout. This is done without users even having to leave the Skyscanner page.”
The wider implications of contextual commerce could mean that in the future, people will be able to book movie tickets right in their group chats to see “Into The Spiderverse” or “Mary Poppins Returns.”
In summary, the biggest changes in commerce are happening in the mobile space, as marketers and innovators flock to where customers spend the most time.
“Most families have a laptop, but it’s no longer the primary device,” Magento’s Sheldon said. “Sitting on the couch or that hour in bed at night, they’re on their mobile.”
Added Gravity Department’s Falkowski: “In 2019, it’d be tough to advise tossing your core budget into anything else.”