Mobile overtakes desktops, laptops as online shopping device of choice

The world of e-commerce has just passed a tipping point: More than half the visits to retailers’ websites now come from mobile devices, according to the latest survey from Branding Brand.

It’s part of an inevitable march: Retail is moving online and online retail is moving to mobile. It isn’t necessarily happening overnight, but the rate of change is impressive. The latest monthly mobile commerce index from Branding Brand, which provides mobile commerce platforms for more than 200 customers, found that from August 2013 to last month, visits to sites from smartphones grew by nearly 24 percent and visits from tablets were up nearly 14 percent.

That growth meant that 50.7 percent of visits to e-tailers originated on smartphones and tablets while 49.3 were conducted on laptops and desktops, Branding Brand says. And maybe more telling is that the 50-percent-plus figure is up from about 5 percent in 2010.

“In four short years, our data has tracked the rapid rise of the mobile consumer from a small fraction of users in 2010, to this moment where the majority of online retail visitors now originate via smartphones and tablets,” Branding Brand CEO Chris Mason said in a written statement. “This fundamental shift in consumer behavior from desktop to mobile happened with unprecedented speed and represents the greatest opportunity in retail since the advent of the Internet.”

I like marking milestones. It’s a reminder that we’re living through history. But sometimes the buzz that milestones generate can drown out other important points. For instance, today’s milestone is all about visits, not revenue.

Direct revenue from mobile commerce still seems sluggish compared to the traffic that the devices generate. eMarketer pointed out last year that at a time when smartphone traffic to e-commerce had grown beyond 28 percent, revenue from mobile devices was still less than 4 percent. I explored a number of potential reasons for that gap in this iMedia Connection piece.

Still, retailers are clearly focused on mobile’s potential. The Branding Brand report says revenue from smartphone purchases was up 89 percent year-over-year in August and up 19 percent on tablets. And retailers are scrambling to figure out how best to capture that increase.

Clearly, none of them can afford to throw up their hands and let mobile slide. For one thing, Deloitte Digital reports, mobile is proving to be a huge influencer for consumers who use them to research products, compare prices, find stores — to “webroom,” to use the current buzzword. In fact, mobile is responsible for 36 cents on every dollar spent in brick-and-mortar stores, Deloitte says, and that number is climbing.

Is it any wonder that mobile is so important in a time when 26 percent of those polled say they could not live without their smartphones, which is more than said they could live without sex? (Thanks Entrepreneur!) We sleep with our phones; we check them obsessively, even when they don’t beckon us, and we shop with them.

So, of course mobile devices are overtaking desktops and laptops as the way we do business. And you know what else? Acknowledging that development is far from the last mobile milestone we’ll mark.


Photo by Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group 

Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.


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