Mobile Is For Browsing, Desktop Is For Buying

Mobile cheerleaders will recoil at that headline, no doubt. The idea that shoppers just don't convert on mobile devices the way they do on the desktop has become a frustrating meme in recent months. Conflating smartphone and tablet is one problem with the conventional wisdom about conversions, for instance. People do indeed buy via their tablets, and the cart sizes often are larger. And more than a few companies that are especially well optimized throughout the purchase path on mobile are seeing remarkable mobile purchase patterns.

Still, metrics are metrics. The UK market research agency BSS Digital published a new study that found 25% of British consumers use their phones to research items first, but then buy them on the PC. About 19% say they do actually buy on the same phone or tablet platforms on which they researched the product. But almost a third (29%) of mcommerce respondents say they do not trust security on devices enough yet to do their shopping here.

As BSS Client Services Director James Southgate says, that mobile-to-PC handoff of a user puts retail brands at risk. “From the time it takes a customer to look at their potential purchase on their handset and then later log on to a PC and purchase it -- they could easily have stumbled upon your competitor,” he notes. “That's a sale lost.” He recommends consistency of look and feel and functionality across platforms as well as the ability to pay for an item in just a few clicks.



The good news for m-commerce is that demographics seem to favor increased adoption. The 18-34 segment converted to mobile buyers at a much higher rate (33%) than average.

Southgate likens this reticence to convert from shopping to buying on a handset to the slow early uptake of e-commerce in the first years of the Web. Security, unfamiliarity, and lack of trust all contributed to consumer unease with online purchases even well into 2005.

M-commerce adoption probably is as inevitable as we might like to think. But surely there are things that will help this along a little faster.  

How about iOS and Android browsers and apps that more effectively filled out forms for us? Before you even get to security and trust concerns about mobile buying, let's face up to the fact that it is just a pain in the ass to buy something on your handset because of this. Apple and Google could make our m-commerce lives a lot easier if they built form filling into all input areas of the OS. Couldn’t the OS itself have password-secure credit card info that can be applied to apps and mobile sites? And shouldn't there be a way that these two platform makers could authenticate the legitimacy of app developers in their own app stores? It seems to me there are a number of ways that Apple and Google could help make the mobile environment more hospitable to shoppers who are ready to become buyers.

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