Ever since the Netscape graphical web browser transformed the way we access the internet, retail entrepreneurs and developers have been redefining the way we purchase goods. We have come a long way since Amazon started out as an online bookstore and eBay was an internet platform for auctioning off garage sales items; in 2018, e-commerce accounted for nearly 9 percent of global spending, and the sector is expected to reach a $4.5 trillion valuation by the year 2021.
E-commerce is very sensitive to technological and lifestyle trends. An interesting trend that has been emerging over the last few years involves the rising use of mobile devices, predominantly smartphones, to make online purchases. Mobile commerce, more commonly known as m-commerce, was born circa early 2011 with the popularity of the Apple iPad, a device that many users praised as being ideal for online shopping. These days, m-commerce transactions generate more than $600 billion per year, thus prompting more entrepreneurs to consider making a strategic move in this direction.
Although m-commerce is a category within e-commerce, there are reasons to choose one over the other instead of tackling both. For companies such as Amazon there is no choice; they must offer both, however, startup companies may want to stick to just one online retail strategy. Here are some important considerations that should be made about traditional e-commerce and modern m-commerce platforms:
Understanding the True Meaning of Mobile Commerce
While electronic commerce is a term used to describe just about any kind of internet shopping operations, mobile commerce does not refer to any retail transaction that involves the use of a smartphone. Let’s say a boutique owner opens a Shopify account that with a responsive website and a simple mobile app that essentially redirects shoppers to the web store; while this setup may enable shopping from smartphones, m-commerce is substantially more involved.
M-commerce refers to ideas and concepts that are mobile-born or mobile-aware. Snapchat is a perfect example of mobile-born business since this trendy social network does not have a desktop equivalent. In fact, Snapchat is jazzing up the m-commerce world with Shoppable AR, a 2018 feature that leverages augmented reality to launch a mobile shopping experience. An example of mobile-aware shopping would be the Amazon mobile app, which connects users to the vast Amazon Marketplace and e-commerce empire while making use of GPS, notifications and digital wallets.
It is important to note that m-commerce and e-commerce do not have to be mutually exclusive; in other words, a business plan for an e-commerce venture does not have to completely rule out a responsive website for mobile users. On the other hand, breaking into the m-commerce space without offering a desktop option is a good idea based on the success enjoyed by many mobile-only shops.
M-commerce and E-commerce Business Requirements
Given the fact that e-commerce has been around for a few decades, startup companies will find more support and resources when compared to m-commerce. The reality of e-commerce is that it is easier break into, particularly for newcomers.
As of 2018, the m-commerce sector is still in the midst of emergence, although it can be quite lucrative for entrepreneurs who play their cards right. There is an intimate aspect to using smartphones for online shopping, and this is ideal insofar as impulse buying, but this also translates into greater expectations from shoppers.
With regard to building a shopping platform, m-commerce entrepreneurs may feel as if they have a greater challenge, and this is a valid concern. Effective mobile app development is more intricate and expensive than setting up traditional e-commerce websites. In some cases, e-commerce entrepreneurs may not even need a website; the third-party Amazon Marketplace, for example, is an open platform that can be easily leveraged for e-commerce success without any development.
M-commerce startup efforts should also pay attention to inventory management strategies and mobile payment methods. As previously mentioned, smartphones and shopping apps encourage impulse shopping, which means that m-commerce shop owners should retain a third-party vendor to manage their inventory if they are not willing to take an active approach. Mobile wallet integration must be secure, flawless and tightly integrated into the shopping app.
In the end, while e-commerce startups may find it easier to establish their operations, they will be entering a very crowded and competitive space. M-commerce startups will not find as competition in their more lucrative space, but setting up their platforms and back-end functions will be more complex.