It may come as an ugly shock to retailers who have been pouring money into mobile-shopping efforts, but a new report from Forrester shows a significant decline in m-commerce in the U.S., even as e-commerce continues to grow. And the number of online adults who don’t even own a mobile phone more than doubled in the last year.
The new report, based on a sample of some 58,000 adults in the U.S. and 6,000 in Canada, finds that 36% of online sales came from mobile devices, down from 43% in 2016, according to the retailers in its research. E-commerce sales increased 14% in that time frame. And only 16% of people in its survey say they buy something with their phone at least weekly, down from 21% in 2016.
When asked why, the most common response, given by 51% of the sample, is that it is easier to shop by computer than by phone, while 46% say it is just because they are more used to their computer, and 30% say it is because the screen is too small.
Many write off that big-screen preference as a quirk of older consumers. But Sucharita Kodali, vice president and principal analyst, who covers e-business strategies for Forrester, writes that it is intensifying among young people, with at least one-third of kids in kindergarten through 12th grade now using school-issued devices, usually a Chromebook. M-commerce is most likely to thrive in markets where people have less access to computers, especially in countries like India and China.
“There are few ‘no PC’ households in the U.S.,” she writes. “And we don’t anticipate that changing as young children are becoming accustomed to larger—not smaller!—screens.”
About 82% of adults go online via their laptops or desktops daily, compared with 65% who do so with their cell phones.
Besides, she points out that mobile conversion rates continue to lag because only a few retailers have mobile-specific types of payment, and when they do, not many shoppers use them. “Many mobile sites still require too many cumbersome keystrokes at checkout,” she says.
Connectivity continues to be problematic, with the U.S. ranking 28th for mobile internet speed.
And while much has been made about mobile’s growing penetration, the number of online adults without a phone jumped from 5% in 2016 to 11% in 2017.
It’s important to note that Forrester’s report does not include all types of m-commerce, excluding such categories as car services like Uber and Lyft, which Forrester says are used by 9% of respondents. It also excludes spending on hospitality, travel and fast-food restaurants, such as Starbucks. Those are significant, it notes, with Pizza Hut now reporting that 70% of its orders are made via mobile, and Domino’s saying mobile generates 30% of sales.
Kodali writes that all this means that retailers should think less about mobile sales and more about how the channel can support and inspire other transactions. “Mobile’s true power lies in supporting sales on other screens or in other channels,” she writes. “Retailers need to acknowledge that reality and adjust accordingly.”