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Mobile E-commerce

The rise and rise of mobile e-commerce

In 1985 Vodafone predicted that the market would take around a million mobile phones. That’s not a million a month or a year or in one particular region but the total forecast sales everywhere. Perhaps it wasn’t surprising though.

Early models were the size and weight of a brick and the portable Motorola cost around £3,000. Coverage was patchy and, as the internet was in its infancy, there wasn’t even a hint that we’d one day be able to connect to it via our phones.

Fast forward 30 years and mobile phones are everywhere. According to a UN report 6 billion of the world’s 7 billion people have access to a mobile phone. In the UK 71.7% of people own smartphones and we’re increasingly using them to search, surf and shop online. It’s true that most online shoppers still prefer to use a laptop or desktop PC. In the UK 81% of shoppers used desktop, with 11% using smartphones and 8% using tablets. In Europe as a whole, 88% preferred desktop over mobile but small screens are increasingly equalling big business.

In 2015, according to the research by RetailMeNot, a global marketplace for digital offers, Europeans will spend around €45 billion (£33 billion). This represents a huge 88.7% rise on the €23.8 billion (£17.5 billion) spent in 2014. Desktop spending, by contrast, is set to rise by just 6%.

The continuing rise of smartphone ownership and mobile internet access has also contributed to the UK becoming the first country in the world to see digital ad spending overtake all other forms of advertising combined.

Bill Fisher, analyst at eMarketer, said: “Digital reaching the 50% threshold in the UK is a significant moment for the ad industry. The UK ad market is notable for its aggressive embrace of online advertising and its rapid adoption of mobile advertising.”

Optimising for mobile

Google recently announced changes in its algorithm for mobile search results that essentially penalise sites that are not properly optimised for mobile, while customers demand a smooth and trouble-free experience too. No one wants to get a ‘404’ error notification and consumers expect sites to load quickly and display correctly.

Keywords may be different for mobile search so make sure you tailor your keyword research and tweak your content as needed. Don’t block JavaScript, CSS or image files as the Smartphone GoogleBot and other mobile web crawlers want to ‘see’ the same content that users do. It can also be wise to avoid Flash, as this can increase page loading time and is not supported by Apple, meaning pages with Flash will not display properly on iPhones.

If you operate internationally you will also have to localise your content. On mobile devices this can be even trickier than it normally is as smaller screens can mean space restrictions and some scripts (ie written languages) can take more or fewer characters to convey the same information. This can be particularly important when designing menus and other set elements.

Faulty redirects can be another issue and one that can be addressed by using responsive design. Some designers still prefer separate desktop and mobile m. domains. This can have certain benefits, especially if you want to incorporate functions and features on desktop that simply wouldn’t work on mobile, but responsive design is becoming more popular. This essentially detects what kind of device is being used and adjusts the page’s display and formatting accordingly, negating the need to design and maintain separate sites for mobile.

Using a ready-made platform

If you’re looking to tap into the e-commerce market, you could almost certainly benefit from using a purpose-built e-commerce platform. These have all the features you need to set up your online store and tend to be fully customisable. Many are available for free – at least for the most basic configurations – and can be further customised with free or paid-for extensions and themes.

All the big players, including Magento, Shopify, BigCommerce, Woo Commerce and Spree Commerce now have mobile-friendly storefronts as a matter of course. Magento and Woo Commerce have a number of responsive design themes that allow you to optimise for different devices quickly and easily. Extensions can be integrated into your site that have a wide range of functions, such as translating your content.

E-commerce is a global phenomenon and more and more people are accessing online stores via their mobile devices. If you’re not optimised for mobile, you could be missing out.

*Photo credits: Sergey Nivens /

Steve Griffin

Steve Griffin edits and writes for the Lingo24 blog. After studying Drama at Exeter University and completing a postgraduate diploma in Management at Durham University, he worked in Marketing & Communications in a global recruitment company for five years, before spending some time as a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant. Steve enjoys bringing his creative flair to writing and marketing projects, and has always been a passionate student of language.

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