Woman on her phone while drinking coffee inside her apartment.
Mobile commerce has been steadily growing each year, with more consumers making purchases from their phones and more retailers strategizing to keep up with this new demand. — Getty Images/Luis Alvarez

Why it matters:

  • Mobile commerce sales in the U.S. are projected to double between 2020 and 2025, reaching more than $728 billion.
  • But while consumers love to browse for products on their mobile devices, getting them to actually buy still remains a challenge for businesses.
  • Marketers are turning mobile browsers into buyers with strategies such as detailed product description pages that help drive purchasing decisions; unbiased brand feedback from social media platforms; and streamlined mobile payment processes that enable ‘one-click checkout,’ experts say.

Mobile commerce has been growing in double-digit percentages year-over-year, as savvy merchants increasingly take steps to convert consumers who browse on their mobile devices into buyers.

Retail mobile commerce sales were up 15.2% in 2021 in the U.S., reaching $359.32 billion, according to Insider Intelligence. By 2025, retail mobile commerce sales will more than double, to reach $728.28 billion, or 44.2%, of total U.S. retail e-commerce sales, Insider Intelligence projects.

“[Mobile commerce] is poised to burst into the mainstream thanks to a host of technological advances that are making it easier for users to shop on their phones,” Insider Intelligence reported.

Consumers love to browse for products on their mobile devices, but getting them to actually buy while they are shopping on those devices is a hurdle that companies have often struggled to overcome.

“Designing and optimizing for mobile should be the key aspect of any brand's omnichannel strategy,” said Elina Vilk, Chief Marketing Officer of WooCommerce, which provides omni-commerce solutions for companies including Weber, Singer, and others.

While customers want the freedom to shop across any platform they choose, mobile can play a role throughout the shopping process, she said, including researching and finding products, learning about products via social media, or browsing while in stores.

“Consumer apps should be seen as the glue of any brand’s omnichannel strategy,” said Rick Berger, President, NewStore, which provides omnichannel commerce services for companies including Burton, UNTUCKit, Outdoor Voices, and others. “Apps can transition seamlessly from offering inspirational online shopping from the couch at home, to enabling a special store experience when consumers walk into a retail location. Think of a consumer app like a customer’s remote control for a brand.”

These and other experts whose companies provide mobile commerce solutions shared the following advice for optimizing mobile sales, which includes providing robust content, leveraging social media platforms, and driving customers to mobile apps and websites via marketing strategies.

Provide robust content — from detailed product descriptions to unbiased social media feedback

One of the keys to successful mobile commerce is ensuring that consumers have all the information they need about the product at their fingertips.

“It's really important that the PDP page, which is the product description page of the particular garment or product that a person is browsing, be really, really robust,” said Gabrielle Wooden, Senior Content Marketing Manager for Tapcart, which provides mobile commerce capabilities for companies such as Juicy Couture.

That includes providing highly detailed product descriptions, sharing unbiased product feedback from social media, and offering other content about the product, such as recipe suggestions in the case of food items, she said.

“Anything that you can post on that page to help educate the buyer about the product is going to be more useful in getting them to actually check out,” said Wooden.

A PDP with minimal info could leave shoppers with a lot of questions, which could lead them to leave the site. In addition, providing more information can help build the consumer’s trust, she said.

[Read: Forecasters on 5 Key Consumer Trends That Will Drive All Businesses in 2023]

Optimize social platforms: ‘TikTok, Instagram, and Pinterest are rapidly becoming important platforms for conducting mobile commerce’

Social media has become a significant platform for mobile commerce, given the amount of time consumers spend browsing these platforms on their mobile phones.

“Without a doubt, the most impactful strategy we’re seeing our merchants use is capitalizing on social media,” said Vilk.

Platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Pinterest are rapidly becoming important platforms for conducting mobile commerce, she said.

“If your customers are using those apps, they are on their phones, and they are much more likely to engage with your products and offerings within those apps,” Vilk said. “Successful merchants use extensions to link their shops to apps like TikTok to make that experience intuitive, and to reach a vast and fast-growing new audience.”

Leverage text and email marketing to capture the business of on-the-go consumers

Sending effective text and email marketing messages is another strategy that successful companies use to drive increased sales via mobile commerce.

Consumers are highly likely to read email marketing messages on their phone while waiting in a line or as a passenger in a car, for example, said Vilk.

“Successful merchants send emails with that in mind,” she said, noting that marketers should keep their messages “short, direct, simple and highly visual.”

“SMS [text] marketing can be a real superpower for merchants,” she said. “A customer will hear from you with the mobile phone in their hand, just a few taps away from making a purchase.”

[Read: How Artificial Intelligence (AI) Is Changing How Marketers Sell Everything From Food to Fashion]

Think of a consumer app like a customer’s remote control for a brand.

Rick Berger, President, NewStore

Drive customers to your app: ‘If they love a brand, they’re likely to go out of their way to download an app’

Most consumers prefer using mobile apps over mobile sites, said Berger.

“If they love a brand, they’re likely to go out of their way to download an app,” he said. “However, they need to be aware that the brand even has an app.”

An easy way to overcome this challenge is to create a simple banner on the mobile website, he said. “Our customers have seen firsthand that this is an effective way to nudge consumers to an app experience,” said Berger.

Companies should also position their apps as the best way to experience the brand, with features that cannot be accessed via other channels, he said.

Once customers have downloaded the app, it presents opportunities to drive sales using tactics such as early access to sales or exclusive product offers, Berger said.

As an example, Berger cited Golden Goose, an Italian luxury sneaker brand, as regularly extending these types of offers to its app users. The brand also creates a special experience and content associated with these campaigns, only available through the app.

Brands are also using mobile apps to improve the brick-and-mortar experience, he said, citing the ability for an app to detect when a customer is in a store.

Another related strategy is using App Clips (for iOS devices) or Instant apps (for Android), van Schadewijk said. These “mini apps” don’t need to be downloaded in order to provide enhanced features on a consumer’s mobile device. “Consumers can have all the benefits of apps without having to download first,” he said.

Streamline mobile payments by enabling ‘one-click checkout’

Converting mobile shoppers to mobile buyers requires that merchants make it easy for consumers to finalize their purchases once they find the product they want on their mobile device.

“Make sure that you're making that actual conversion really easy,” said Tapcart’s Wooden, citing research that shows the rate of abandoned carts rises significantly if it takes longer than 13 seconds to check out.

Enabling payment features such as Apple Pay or other mobile wallets allows customers to finalize a purchase with what Tapcart calls “one-click checkout.”

“When you are able to have all of that information—shipping information, credit card details—pre-populated, you’re able to capture their willingness to buy quicker than if they have to walk through those steps,” she said.

WooCommerce’s Vilk agreed that mobile wallets foster seamless checkout experiences on mobile platforms.

“[Businesses] need fast or, in some cases, instantaneous account creation or single-sign-on type tools to rapidly convert a shopper into a buyer,” she said.

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