Make no mistake about it, more and more commerce is going online every year. In 2016 business-to-consumer sales is projected to reach a staggering $1.92 Trillion, which will surpass 2015’s record-setting numbers by well over $0.2 Trillion dollars. Businesses are responding to this shift in consumer preference, albeit slowly, by developing e-commerce solutions in hopes of capturing some of those $1.92 Trillion. But online retail brings with it a whole new set of challenges, so operators are also engaging all sorts of vendors to help them with e-commerce order fulfillment logistics, including inventory control, shipping and shopping cart support.
These are encouraging developments, but adopting e-commerce solutions is only part of the equation. As consumers become more reliant on their mobile devices to get through their daily routines, businesses must also develop mobile responsive websites if they want to capture a piece of the growing digital B2C market.
With smartphones and tablets exploding in popularity in less than a decade, consumers are spending less and less time sitting in front of personal computers and more time conducting their lives—both personal and professional—on these mobile devices. A recent study found that the average consumer spends 90 minutes a day on his or her phone. That adds up to 23 days a year spent staring at phone screens. This, of course, includes more time spent purchasing books, digital music downloads, and nearly every other product and service imaginable. Indeed, mobile commerce now accounts for 30 percent of all e-commerce purchases in the United States, as of August 2015.
There are right ways and wrong ways to make your business mobile friendly, however. Though appropriate for brands with national or international visibility, mobile apps are less suitable for small and mid-sized businesses. Simply put, most consumers don’t want apps for local or boutique businesses they may only visit every couple of months taking up valuable space on their phones. You can prove this right now by pulling out your phone and counting how many business apps you have on your phone.
Moreover, if businesses invest in mobile apps instead of mobile friendly websites, their search engine rankings will suffer, since Google gives priority to mobile friendly websites. Consumers also favor mobile friendly websites; they’re unlikely to visit a business’s website, let alone buy anything on it if it’s difficult to navigate on their phones or tablets.
There’s another problem to consider, though. Sure, there are countless developers out there that will write you an inexpensive mobile app for a business, but very few of them can offer companies the logistics solutions they will need once the app is up and running. E-commerce stores accessible through mobile responsive websites, however, are far easier to support. The marketing and fulfillment logistics solutions for companies are already in place in most cases. The same can’t be said for mobile apps.
So what kind of opportunities does a mobile friendly e-commerce store open up? For one thing, it’s an excellent way to maintain cash flow when foot traffic slows down.
Businesses whose profitability varies with the seasons, theme parks for example, can use e-commerce stores to sell multi-visit and seasonal passes at a discount. Then when their slow seasons hit, they have a steady stream of revenue which enables them to operate comfortably. An online store also enables smaller businesses to offer special promotions to entice customers into their stores and take advantage of holiday sales opportunities like Cyber Monday, which is now the biggest online shopping day of the year.
Keeping up with the latest technological trends as a business owner is challenging. But remaining competitive in an ever-changing marketplace requires that companies start engaging their customers in innovative ways. As consumers move more and more of their lives onto the web, they will expect the businesses they patronize to keep up with their demands. Right now, the best way to keep up is to let them do business with you while they surf the internet on their smartphones.