EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2976 - January 10, 2013     1 of 3

Online Selling Trends Part 3: Mobile Shopping's Impact on Sellers

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Today's installment of "Online Selling Trends" covers mobile shopping and social networking and their impact on online sellers. Our panel of experts have weighed in on the challenges and opportunities online sellers face in 2013 in Part 1, available on this page, and about selling internationally and same-day delivery in Part 2, available on this page. (Part 4, Legal Issues and Boosting Traffic, is now available.)

Our panelists include:

Axios Ventures founder and former Etsy CEO Maria Thomas (Online marketplace, angel investor)
Braintree CEO Bill Ready (Online and mobile payments)
Demandware Solutions Marketing Lead Gary Lombardo (Ecommerce platform)
DYMO Endicia co-founder and General Manager Amine Khechfe (Shipping service)
Google Shopping VP Product Management Sameer Samat (Shopping search platform)
One Million by One Million (1M/1M) founder Sramana Mitra (Global virtual incubator)
ShopRunner Chief Strategy Officer Fiona Dias (Members-only shopping service) founder and CEO Phillip Davies (Antiques and collectibles marketplace)

These experts believe mobile is having a major impact on shopping behavior. Google's Sameer Samat said there is no longer a linear path to purchase that ends with an ecommerce purchase on the same device. Shoppers may start on mobile and complete their purchase using their smartphone, many also start on mobile and end up buying in store or on different devices, he said.

But aside from sharing important data and advising sellers to optimize their sites and checkout flow for mobile, there's not a lot of actionable advice yet for micro sellers - EcommerceBytes believes this will come as the larger retailers and marketplaces pave the way.

As far as social networking, only three of our eight panelists weighed in on the topic, and they named Facebook and Pinterest as the top sites sellers should pay attention to.

What are your thoughts on Mobile Shopping, and how will it impact online sellers in 2013? What advice do you have for sellers?

Axios Ventures Founder Maria Thomas: The importance of mobile platforms to the future of ecommerce cannot be overstated. Consumers are shifting from desktop/web-driven experiences to mobile/app-driven experiences. Smartphone ownership in the U.S., and elsewhere, hit a tipping point in 2012. More people now own a smartphone in the U.S. - 45% of adults - than own a traditional cellphone, according to a survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Though the PC remains the dominant device directing traffic to ecommerce sites, a few major players provide metrics showing significant traction coming from mobile devices.

  • Fab: 33% of sales on mobile; on Christmas Day 56% of sales on mobile.
  • One in four users are visiting Etsy from a mobile phone.
  • Approximately 5-8% of 2012 sales expected to be from mobile.

To take full advantage of the mobile revolution, retailers and sellers should better understand how customers shop with their mobile devices. Today, mobile experiences tend to fill small gaps of time while people wait in line, ride the bus or subway, or wait for an appointment. Speed matters. Mobile experiences must be fast and designs should accommodate smaller screen sizes.

Retailers/sellers should also keep in mind that customers will find inspiration everywhere and act on mobile devices. From brick and mortar stores to online stores to just about anywhere: the popularity and penetration of smart phones makes selling stuff anywhere a reality.

Walmart Canada and Mattel recently created a virtual toy store in Toronto's underground walkway. The virtual toy store enabled shoppers to scan a QR code - essentially from a poster - with their smartphone to purchase the hottest Mattel holiday toys from Walmart Canada. Tesco (UK) did something similar last year with its HomePlus retail subsidiary in South Korea. Peapod is testing virtual grocery shopping in the U.S.

Braintree CEO Bill Ready: Mobile shopping is already at 20% of all search sessions, and is expected to more than double within the next year. Purchasing on a mobile device is the next thing that sellers must start to optimize for.

This means making sure that they are merchandising properly on a mobile device and making it easy for consumers to not only shop, but make a purchase on that device.

Merchants can make the purchase experience painless for consumers by providing a one-click checkout, which lets customers avoid typing in long credit card number strings, ensure transaction speeds on a mobile device are fast and encrypts transaction data for maximum security.

Demandware Solutions Marketing Lead Gary Lombardo: I believe 2013 will be the year that retailers create smarter mobile shopping experiences by designing for mobile first and providing contextual, mobile specific experiences, and we'll see retailers focus on differentiating their mobile experiences with richer, more interactive user interfaces that is very channel and device specific.

I have and remain a huge proponent of mobile. I've witnessed a fascinating evolution in retailer's approach to mobile and am very bullish that 2013 will be a year in which we'll see some major strides in a truly "mobile first" approach by leading retailers.

Google Shopping VP of Product Management Sameer Samat: It used to be that people came into stores with no knowledge and relied on a rep to give them the information they needed to make an educated purchase. But the power has shifted and the personal shopper in many people's pockets is a huge part of that. Now, 4 out of 5 shoppers use multiple devices - in-store and out - when making a purchase, and can get information on the go.

Additionally, not having a mobile optimized website hurts twice. It can damage a seller's brand and customers often move on to a competitor. In fact, our research shows that 61% of people said that they'd quickly move onto another site if they didn't find what they were looking for right away on a mobile site.

Non mobile-friendly sites can also hurt a business's reputation: 52% of users said that a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company.

My advice to sellers is to make it as easy as possible for shoppers to find the information they're seeking, when they're seeking it. They need to create sites that are optimized for the mobile web, to minimize pinching and zooming, and use analytics to see where potential customers are dropping off. They can then use insights from the web, mobile or otherwise, to better optimize campaigns and learn more about their customer base.

The gap between the smart online consumer and the offline retailer is disappearing!

One Million by One Million Founder Sramana Mitra: Mobile shopping will be big. Sellers should look at technologies like Zuznow to mobilize their sites.

ShopRunner Chief Strategy Officer Fiona Dias: Holiday shopping is already stressful enough without having to input all of your information into each web site that you want to buy from. In fact, ShopRunner recently conducted a study and found that 67% of online shoppers would purchase more online from their mobile device or computer if they could use the same secure, easy check-out procedure across all websites.

That's why we launched PayRunner, a 2-click express checkout, to make it easier for customers to shop across websites without tedious, repetitive data-entry - you can manage all your addresses and store multiple payment methods for use on stores that use express checkout. CEO Phillip Davies: Make sure that the platform your are selling on is compatible with mobile devices.

To what degree does mobile replace other shopping channels - how much is incremental?

Axios Ventures Founder Maria Thomas: The majors are starting to see significant traction coming from mobile devices, but I don't think we have any good numbers on what's new and what's incremental. The key is to have a site that is designs for multiple screens and/or to use a platform that is present on all platforms.

Braintree CEO Bill Ready: Mobile definitely creates incremental sales opportunities for merchants. People will increasingly use their mobile device for purchasing when they have spare moments of time - 2012 holiday shopping behavior demonstrated this point as 24% of consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer's site.

Thanksgiving Day sales on a mobile device were also high, especially because in-store shopping was not an option. Additionally, a recent Harris poll found that nearly half of smartphone users (44%) report interest in processing payments via smartphone.

Demandware Solutions Marketing Lead Gary Lombardo: I don't think there is a large cannibalization of mobile for online transactions. Consumers are going to purchase online with the channel they are comfortable (web, mobile, call center, etc.). Not having a mobile optimized channel is actually a lost opportunity since consumers will likely not purchase via that channel and go elsewhere.

Mobile does cannibalize the store channel, namely through showrooming. Most consumers use their mobile smartphones in stores to shop, often times for price checking (tablets are typically used "on the couch" at home, which do not cannibalize store sales).

That stated, we are seeing retailer-provided apps, such as endless aisle or clienteling apps in the store actually saving sales for retailers (if they can't find something in the store, they can leverage online inventory to save the sale). So, in this case mobile actually is saving a sale for the retailer overall and adding to the store channel (most retailers give credit to the store where the purchase was made even though it was purchased online).

Google Shopping VP of Product Management Sameer Samat: With mobile we're no longer just seeing a linear path to purchase that ends with an ecommerce purchase on the same device. While many users do start their journey on mobile and complete purchases on the phone, many also start on mobile and end up buying in store or on different devices.

Whether it's smartphone users searching on the go or tablet users shopping while sitting on their couch, the widespread adoption of mobile devices has set the stage for exciting new decision moments that are happening in totally new ways, which marketers can't ignore. People are picking up different devices depending on their context - like how much time they have, their location, and state of mind.

In short, we live in a multi-screen world where using multiple devices is the new norm. Our research shows that 90% of people use multiple screens sequentially to accomplish a task over time, and 98% of people move between devices in that same day to accomplish a task.

Smartphones are the gateway to that multi-screen world and they're the most commonly paired device, and the most common starting point for online activities; 65% of people start by searching for info on smartphone.

One Million by One Million Founder Sramana Mitra: The tablet is a replacement. Phone is more incremental. CEO Phillip Davies: I can see sales on mobile devices surpassing sales from PC's within the next few years.

Who are the winners and losers in Social Networking in 2013, and what's the one Social Networking site on which every seller should participate?

Demandware Solutions Marketing Lead Gary Lombardo: Interesting question...I used to think social commerce was going to revolutionize how we shop, but am not as bullish. I still believe it will and is having an impact, but not at the rate we had once hoped.

I do think that if social can be used to make the shopping experience more personalized, then that is where the real value is. We're starting to see that happen online, and will start to see that impact the physical store in 2013.

I think the biggest winners in 2013 will be Facebook as they continue to collect a huge amount of data about consumers and expose it for retailers to utilize (which many have not yet, so the opportunity still exists) and Amazon, who is not a social commerce vendor, but through their huge amount of data and ability to put resources behind it will continue to lead the way with what's possible with social in 2013.

Otherwise, I think other winners will be Pinterest (who I think will be acquired). The social networking site every retailer should participate is their own. (That's not meant to be a wise guy answer!).

There is a huge opportunity for retailers to leverage social data to make shopping experience on their own site (and other channels- store, etc.) more personalized and relevant. It's not easy, but should be a top 3 initiative for any retailer to tackle.

One Million by One Million Founder Sramana Mitra: Facebook remains key. For visual merchandising, Pinterest holds strong appeal. CEO Phillip Davies: I think Pinterest is vastly under rated. We are seeing much more motivated buyers on Pinterest that we do on Facebook. Twitter does not even show up as a blip on our radar for generating sales.

What Do You Think?
In our next installment, panelists will tackle the legal and regulatory issues facing online sellers, and where merchants should be focusing in terms of getting traffic.

(Part 4, Legal Issues and Boosting Traffic, is now available.)

If you'd like to comment on these experts' answers or if you have your own thoughts about the challenges you face this year, let us know by participating in the discussion thread on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to

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