Will the Mobile Revolution Smother the Trusty Desktop? | The State of 2015 E-Commerce

If a desktop computer could wear clothes, it would arise every morning at 6:30 a.m., don a blue shirt and khaki slacks, and hum the “Green Acres” theme song on its way to work – which is at Microsoft, of course. If a smartphone could choose its attire, it would look like a GQ hipster and wear a jacket in summer before it was cool.

This is serious stuff. Global business-to-customer (B2C) e-commerce reached sales of $1.5 trillion in 2014. Now drum roll please and a quick check of the sales analytics, in the United States, customers spent an estimated $480 billion on online sales. E-commerce has passed the tipping point to become mainstream, and its success depends on these two players: the white-collar PC and the urbane smartphone. Come 2015, what part will desktop devices, mobile phones, and shopping cart interface play in e-commerce?

Mobile and Desktop Device Ownership
In 1973, Motorola unveiled the world’s first smartphone for $3,995. That’s more than $21,000 in modern U.S. dollars. Today, everyone and his mother have phones. Ninety percent of Americans – and practically everyone under 49 – owns a cell phone. Eighty-three percent of those under the age of 29 own a smartphone, like an Android or an iPhone. The more urban, male, educated and affluent a person is, the more likely he is to own a smartphone. Differences in ownership by gender and ethnicity are negligible.

The mobile device newcomer is the tablet. In 2013, 200 million were sold. By 2017, pundits expect annual tablet sales to surpass one billion. That means one out of seven people, across the entire earth, would own a tablet. Approximately 12 percent of all time spent browsing the Internet occurs on tablets, and as will be seen, it is rapidly becoming the superstar of online shopping.

In the personal computer (PC) world, the three big players are Lenovo, HP and Dell. All report a dim future for the traditional desktop computer. The lion’s share of 2014 PC sales went to corporate businesses running large programs that require a PC, like companion diagnostics programs and personal medicine analysis, and the occasional cult of college gamers. For 2015, many predict that more people will buy tablets – not to mention smartphones – in lieu of traditional desktops and notebooks.

Synopsis: The PC is on its last tottering legs. The smartphone reigns king, and the tablet is the popular new kid on the block. Should businesses, therefore, spend the extra money to optimize website navigation and presentation for PC operating systems to entice business customers? Or should they build responsive websites and mobile shopping carts to woo the Millennial generation?

Mobile and Desktop Device Internet Usage
The third week of August 2014 held the answer. For the first time since mankind found caves, mobile devices brought more traffic to online stores than did computers.

Now, that trend comes with a soup of caveats. More desktop shoppers, for instance, used traditional search engines like Google and Bing, whereas mobile users preferred social media outlets like Facebook. That, too, comes with caveats. Antique collectibles and digital cameras are often purchased through Facebook. Home furnishings and specialty gifts, however, rarely are.

Here’s the biggest caveat of all: Mobile users may bring more traffic to online stores, but desktop users are more likely to push the buy button. Smartphone conversion rates often fall below one percent. Analogous tablet and desktop rates hover between two and three percent. This trend could be due to a dozen annoyances. Smartphones take longer to load web pages. Tablets can showcase more data per page. Desktop connections are viewed as more secure. Smartphones don’t have keyboards. Et cetera.

Perhaps the reason is simpler. Recent studies show that 77 percent of mobile users blame a poor or unsatisfying viewing or navigation experience with their unwillingness to buy from a site. For many businesses, responsive websites remain an afterthought designed for looks rather than ease of navigation. Building data-heavy interactive smartphone websites, therefore, could instantly improve conversion.

It is all well and good to know this information for the coming year. But how can a business get the data instantaneously, without waiting for pundits to crunch the numbers and paint ‘em pretty?

E-Commerce Software Programs
Meet Shopify, e-commerce software. Programs like Shopify allow users to monitor site traffic, visitor demographics, conversion rates and other metrics from the backend. It is like a digital surveillance program that does the math automatically.

A user can also hook up Shopify to third-party providers to exploit extra data. For example, a small business owner can create a dashboard with self-service analytics that enables her to transform her raw Shopify backend data into crisp, clean graphs. She can use these graphs to identify peak shopping season, customer demographic data, and her most effective marketing channels.

The mobile revolution has not yet claimed total victory. Desktop PCs, smartphones and tablets all bring billions to digital shelves. The savvy entrepreneur, therefore, will target all three devices – and buy an e-commerce dashboard to catch and crunch the salient numbers.

Image source: https://stocksnap.io/photo/VVSESFW1MS

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