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‘Digital tipping point’ as sales from mobile devices overtake those from desktops and laptops: IMRG

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We have seen an increase in more ecommerce sales from mobile devices than desktop and laptops in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to the IMRG, which is hailing the news as a “major digital tipping point”.

The etail trade association’s analysis of sales channels found that 49% of online transactions took place from desktops or laptops in the final three months of last year, while smartphones and tablets together accounted for 51% of sales. Tablets accounted for 33% of total ecommerce transactions, while smartphones accounted for 18%.

The continuing shift in shopping was even more pronounced for the research phase of online shopping. Two thirds (66%) of visits to retail websites came via mobile devices in the fourth quarter, up from 63% in the previous quarter. That’s up from 53% at the same time last year.

So what’s behind the shift? Commentators from the IMRG and Capgemini suggest that it’s all to do with the increasing ease of paying via a smartphone, which is in turn boosting confidence in spending from them. The growth in sales was fastest for smartphones, which rose sharply in 2015, while the use of tablet computers to buy seems to have matured: sales growth using the devices was at a record low in December 2015.

Tina Spooner, chief information officer at IMRG , said: “Smartphones have played an important role in the overall online shopping process for a long time – often used for research and comparison on the go – but over the past year they have really started to become a major component of the checkout process too and that is what is driving this leap in mobile penetration. In January sales via smartphones grew 95.6% year-on-year for example – over 7x the rate of those via tablets.

“In 2014 the rate of growth via smartphones appeared to be slowing down, but in 2015 it shot up again. The main reason for this is likely to be related to the design trend for larger screens, but many mobile retail sites have improved significantly to give a far better experience and inspire confidence in shoppers. There is also the fact that we increasingly use our smartphones for managing so much of our lives – it’s only logical that completing purchases on retail sites would gravitate over to these devices as well.”

Richard Tremellen, retail insight and data specialist at Capgemini , predicted that smartphone sales growth would continue. “This is a very significant milestone in the history of the online retail sector and reflects the work retailers have put into improving the customer experience on smartphones,” he said. “Not only have mobile platforms become more secure, but the payment process is also much slicker. The result is smartphone conversion rates that are 70% to 80% higher than this time last year.

“The figures illustrate that retailers have well and truly embraced the potential that the mobile channel can offer in reaching customers, and given that mobile advertising and geo-location marketing are yet to hit maturity, you feel there is more growth to come.”

Commenting on the news Sam Ambrose, senior consultant at digital commerce consultancy Salmon , said: “As more shoppers turn to mobile, it’s more important than ever for brands to have an exceptional multichannel offering in place. Our own research has found however that 23% of companies struggle with integrating traditional sales channels with mobile commerce channels. Bringing the high street online in a creative and functional way is no mean feat – consumers respect and return to brands that deliver an outstanding level of service and make our busy lives easier, fitting in rather than adding on. The challenge for retailers and indeed all multichannel businesses is that, consumers still want a personalised experience.

“Communication and interaction is just as vital as a smooth mobile checkout and brands need to think about how they can add the ‘human touch’ to their mobile customer relationships. It’s almost as if we’ve gone full circle and need to revert back to a more traditional approach to guarantee loyalty – a mix of modern convenience and traditional customer values. The brands that really win in mobile are those which can combine automated functionality with high street-style personal service.”

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