We’ve all been guilty of declaring each of the past 3 or 4 years “the year of mobile,” but it may actually be reaching the tipping point for ecommerce. A Google study released this week made clear what online retailers suspect — people are becoming so tied to their smartphones that they are making that bold move into purchasing items through the mobile platform. Just as the burgeoning online purchase phenomenon convinced even the smallest retailer that a website for one’s products and services was a necessity, the growing use of smartphones as the means of buying online will inevitably lead to more and more businesses paying attention to how their site appears and performs on the mobile platform.
The Google study, conducted with thinkmobile, is available here. It’s 40 pages of mostly insightful data (although I really wonder about the scientific basis of the question about what item they would give up for a month in return for continuing to use their smartphone to access the Internet — 36% cited chocolate! For a month? I think not) based on the responses of 5,013 US adults who use smartphones to access the Internet in Q4 of 2010.
Amongst all the data in the report, one of the most interesting charts for me was the one showing how smartphones have become a key step in a purchase that crosses different channels.
We are used to seeing data supporting the fact that people see a product online and then go out and purchase it — in the brick-and-mortar store — or they see it online and purchase it online and both these paths are making headway in adding in the smartphone as the access point for discovery of the online product. However, this study indicates that the path from smartphone to purchase is growing. 9% said they had visited a store and then purchased via their smartphone, while 16% had researched on the smartphone, visited the store, and then returned to their smartphone to purchase. This is a total of one quarter of all the smartphone users surveyed, speaking volumes on the integration of the smartphone into the purchase process (not to mention further proof of movement away from the desktop and laptop toward the smartphone — elsewhere in the study, 93% of respondents say they use their smartphone in their home, not just on the go).
Evidence such as the Google report, and much else that has been released recently, makes it more important than ever to investigate how your online site is shown on the major smartphones in the market, as well as how smoothly the purchase process goes on that platform. It also makes sense to investigate some of the advertising options available, particularly click-to-call choices (Google to the rescue?). After all, when a study reports that more than half (53%) of those using a smartphone to search the Internet say they have purchased something as a result of that search, and the reach of the smartphone continues to grow, it’s time to get smart about smartphones!