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Customer Behavior

How Changes in Mobile Usage are Shaping Retail

Mobile devices have fundamentally changed consumer behaviour in regards to shopping, and if you haven’t started planning for the mobile customer yet, now is the time.

The mobile shopping wave is just breaking and, in this article, we’ll highlight some of the fundamental changes in customer behaviour brought about by the rise in mobile adoption and help you reap the rewards of going mobile.

Just how important is mobile?

In the USA, mobile shopping overtook desktop shopping for the first time on Black Friday in 2015, with mobile shopping activity being responsible for 53% of shopping visits. In Europe, spending on mobiles rose 66% and was responsible for 45 billion Euros in sales in 2015. And this past Christmas, despite relatively low sales in general across the retail sector, John Lewis bucked the trend in the UK and saw an increase in mobile sales of 31%.

Although mobile currently has the lowest conversion rate of any device, retailers are proving that this rate is growing rapidly. In the USA, it’s expected that 25% of all e-commerce sales will be made via mobile by the end of 2016.

Mobile has put the power well and truly in the hands of customers as they chose when, where and how they shop. Retailers that plan for mobile becoming the dominant channel will reap the benefits, so here’s some examples of a few core changes in mobile consumer behaviour and how retailers can respond to it.


Changes in consumer use of mobile

1 – Decreasing attention span and low tolerance for bad navigation

Dual screening and multi-tasking on mobiles have helped lower our attention span below that of a goldfish. People are easily distracted and don’t give their mobile device their full attention all of the time. This makes it difficult to convert browsers who may only glance at your site or product offering and leave immediately or get sidetracked.

Rules for Mobile Shopping:

  • Support mobile shoppers, so they don’t have to sift through irrelevant products and intricate navigation structures
  • Make it easy to browse through your assortment and help shoppers to make quick purchase decisions.

To hold user attention and allow them to make quick, and at the same time confident purchase decisions, retailers should:

  • Plan for the distracted customer. Using digital marketing theory such as the AIDA model for designing content will help you understand your entire user journey and craft an experience that captures the user’s attention and builds their interest.
  • Integrate Mobile Guided Selling. When browsing, users are often distracted or lose interest when they’re bored or feel like they aren’t progressing. Mobile Guided Selling takes away the chance of users hitting a dead-end by holding attention and shepherding them through the path to purchase, from identifying needs, right through to recommending products based on those needs. This increases engagement, holds interest and provides an intuitive and fun shopping experience that supports shopper decision making. Here’s an example of a responsive product finder in action.
E-ZUP shelter advisor
E-Z Up offers a responsive interactive mobile shelter advisor to help shoppers quickly navigate to the most suitable shelter

2 – Saving items in shopping carts to purchase later

In a study conducted by Bronto, it was found that 73% of respondents use their shopping basket to store potential purchases that they intend to come back to later. This figure is boosted to 88% for millennials. Therefore, the concept of ‘shopping cart abandonment’ may not have the same application on mobile devices, as the cart may not have ‘abandoned’ at all, but simply ‘saved’.

Although efforts to optimise your on-site conversions are valid, retailers could also benefit from attempting to bring back previous visitors who’ve stored items in their cart. Some tactics you can try in an attempt to increase your saved cart conversions include:

  • Retargeting. You can use the Google AdSense platform to show targeted display ads based on what’s in your visitors shopping cart. These ads are shown on third party sites that your potential customer visits after your site and can serve to remind visitors of their intended purchase.
  • Exit-intent overlays. Try using exit-intent technology to display a pop-up style overlay when your visitor attempts to leave your site. You can use this to either offer a promotional discount based on what’s in their cart, or to capture their email address in order to target them later with a reminder encouraging them to return.
  • Persistent cookies. You can also use persistent cookies in order to store your users shopping cart items so that they appear in their cart when they return to the site. It’s a reminder for those who may have forgotten and adds convenience for those with intent.


3 – Shopping on impulse and Social commerce: Purchasing through social media

Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter all now have Buy buttons that allow users to make purchases directly within the app or site. This presents opportunities to retailers looking to capitalise on some of the most dominant mobile engagement platforms.

The immediacy of the social newsfeed invokes FOMO (fear of missing out), meaning that users tend to act on impulse, in the heat of the moment, rather than indulge in the obsessive comparison-making that traditionally occurs online. With social commerce, there’s a gaping opportunity for retailers to increase sales because, if a user doesn’t act there and then, the offer, product or service that’s in their newsfeed at the time, might not be there tomorrow. This adds a layer of urgency and immediacy to the decision making process which retailers can capitalise on.

Buyable Pins on Pinterest
Buyable Pins on Pinterest


4 – Browsing in store, buying online and vice versa

Although showrooming – the act of browsing items in store whilst comparing prices on mobile and later buying, usually cheaper, online – was a headline-grabber in 2012, it’s been operating under the radar ever since. However, even though it’s not making the headlines today, it is still a valid routine for a growing number of shoppers.

In parallel, consumers have been developing the exact opposite behaviour – mobile browsing online at home, then purchasing in store – a concept known as webrooming.

To capitalise on these trends, retailers can offer:

  • In-store pick-up. If you have a brick and mortar store, offer an in-store pick up service where users can buy online and pick the item up in-store. This will give you an opportunity to convert shoppers while they’re in the buying frame of mind, yet still allow them to indulge in the in-store experience. You never know, with a little merchandising magic, you may well make another impulse sale while they’re in store.
  • Exclusive online products/offers. If you don’t have a bricks and mortar store and want to take advantage of your on-site potential, consider offering exclusive products that are only available from your site. Alternatively, consider offering one-off or limited-time promotions in order to encourage browsers to commit in the moment.
  • Finance providers. Sometimes, visitors might plan on making a purchase when they get paid and are simply researching their purchases whilst browsing. In order to provide an opportunity for potentials to convert, there are a new wave of finance providers hitting the market that can offer shoppers credit at lightening speeds. Companies such as Affirm, Earnest and Lending Club are making checking out possible for those with a temporary cash shortage and could see you increase your mobile sales amongst an otherwise hard to persuade segment.
In-store pickup
Offer shoppers the convenience of mobile shopping with same-day pickup at nearby stores

Acting now

Mobile shopping isn’t something that’s going to disappear any time soon. It’ll continue to snowball and consumer behaviour is likely to continue advancing as mobile devices intrude further and further into our lives. It’s in the interest of retailers to, not just respond to this changing behaviour, but to also predict where and how users will shop in the future.

Chat about how you too can respond to changing mobile shopping needs with interactive product advisors.

The old saying ‘necessity is the mother of all invention’ suggests that companies tend to act when things are imperative. By this point, it’s usually too late. With mobile technology and possibilities advancing at such a pace, delaying embracing and prioritising mobile may mean that you’ll already be too far behind to catch up. You’re better off biting the bullet, being proactive and acting now.

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Kane is a digital consultant who works in the digital transformation and disruption space, helping brands innovate new products, services and processes that capitalise on new technology and rising customer expectations. With a specialism in user experience design, digital analytics, organisational culture change and customer behaviour, coupled with a firm background in agile development, Kane guides organisations from the traditional analogue graveyard into the digital age.