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Charting The Rise of M-Commerce

Matt Kaplan
Content Strategist
5 min read
Posted on June 01, 2021

The rise of m-commerce, or mobile commerce, is unprecedented. According to data from eMarketer, m- commerce sales originating just from mobile phones will likely top $349 million in 2021. This year, overall retail sales coming from mobile devices is expected to account for more than $424 million, accounting for close to 54% of all online shopping dollars spent. 

For more context on why these stats around m-commerce market share are so impressive, let’s dive into how this space has grown and what is leading this evolution. Let’s also dive into how the space will likely evolve going forward, and what both traditional and online retailers need to know about its future. 

Charting M-Commerce Growth Over Time 

For context on m-commerce, it’s helpful to see how this space has grown over time. Back in 2013, total retail m-commerce sales were just under $42 billion – an impressive figure, but only 16% of total e-commerce sales. Considering that the bulk of all retail sales were still in person or occurring through other traditional channels eight years ago, this means that m-commerce was just a small silver of the total retail market. 

My, how times have changed! Between 2013 and 2017, m-commerce sales grew by a whopping 276%. And between 2017 and 2021, they are expected to grow by an additional 170%. By the end of this year, the majority of all e-commerce sales will likely be from mobile users. 

And what makes all this even more impressive is that all of these predictions date from before the COVID-19 pandemic, which accelerated both e-commerce and m-commerce sales. As habits that emerged while people were largely stuck at home begin to coalesce, it’s likely that total m-commerce sales will be even higher by the end of 2021. 

Understanding Changes in Consumer Shopping Habits and Mobile Shopping 

What is leading to the rapid rise of m-commerce? There are a few underlying reasons: 

  • The Growing Primacy of Smartphones: In May 2011, just 35% of American adults had a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center. But in the following decade, that number has jumped to 85%. The fact that so many have a mobile device capable of supporting online shopping makes it a much more feasible option. And on top of that, Americans have been spending more time using mobile devices than they do watching TV since 2018. The growing ubiquity and popularity of internet-enabled mobile devices means that m-commerce is a more readily acceptable option. No wonder over 80% of m-commerce sales are expected to come from smartphones this year. 
  • Growth and Proliferation of Shopping Apps: Also fueling the rise of m-commerce is the fact that consumers have so many more options for shopping via mobile devices. For one thing, many retailers now have their own mobile apps. In addition, marketplace apps like Amazon, eBay and Etsy are incredibly popular. And on top of all that, there are apps like Amazon Pay, Google Pay and Apple Pay that make completing m-commerce transactions much easier and more seamless by simplifying the payments process. This growth in m-commerce infrastructure has done a lot to facilitate the overall growth of m-commerce and mobile retail sales. 
  • Convenience of E-Commerce: In many ways, the growth of m-commerce is the natural next step in the overall growth of e-commerce. Total retail e-commerce sales grew over 14% in 2020, according to eMarketer, and the space is expected to see similar growth in 2021. As the delivery supply chain keeps improving and as consumers become more comfortable with e-commerce, it makes sense that this would lead to a growth in e-commerce happening through their favored device: the smartphone. 
  • Flexibility in the Buying Process: BOPIS, or buy online and pick up in store, alongside curbside pickup, have helped fuel the growth of m-commerce. By the end of 2021, 90% of retailers may be offering BOPIS. This proved to be very popular during 2020, with consumers opting for contactless purchasing options, and it will likely continue to be popular in the coming months and years. BOPIS is often directly correlated with m-commerce, as brands such as Target require consumers to display their order on their phone before placing items in their trunk. 

Why Retail Investment in Mobile is Now a Necessity 

The rise of m-commerce highlights the central role mobile devices now play in the retail shopping landscape. Mobile is how consumers learn about new products, conduct research and make purchases.  

As a result, mobile needs to be central to any retail marketing strategy. This includes reaching new audiences through mobile advertising, connecting with existing customers through owned-and-operated apps, driving in-person store traffic through targeting mobile mapping and pushing consumers to make purchases through third-party apps. No matter what a retailer’s marketing and business goals may be, mobile is key. 

What do you think of the rise of m-commerce? Where do you see the m-commerce space going in the next few years? Let us know your thoughts on social media! You can reach us directly on FacebookTwitterInstagram or LinkedIn

About the Author  

Matthew Kaplan has over a decade of digital marketing experience, working to support the content goals of the world’s biggest B2B and B2C brands. He is a passionate app user and evangelist, working to support diverse marketing campaigns across devices. 

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