The buy-in from customers and businesses to mobile commerce couldn’t be any more obvious. The elements are solidly in place.

Customers are already equipped with the necessary devices: 294 million Americans are smartphone and tablet users, according to a 2021 Statista report. Businesses are ramping up: Mobile commerce sales accounted for $338 billion (USD) in e-commerce sales in 2020, up from $207 billion in 2018, according to Statista.

Americans are also spending more time on their wireless handheld devices. According to App Annie, an app analytics firm, Americans averaged 4.2 hours a day on their phone, up from 3 hours in 2019, with mobile fueling 45% more financial decisions.

Driving much of this growth will be an increased emphasis on direct-to-consumer (D2C) mobile commerce sales strategies. The industry disruptions caused by COVID-19 have altered sales strategies and sent manufacturers looking for new opportunities to reach new markets of customers directly. By revamping D2C strategies, businesses will have access to more customer data, greater brand control, and faster speed to market.

B2B will obviously continue to be in the mobile commerce arsenal, but businesses — recognizing the buyer-seller dynamic — are making a concerted effort to directly engage with customers, and it means focusing on mobile opportunities.

What is mobile commerce?

Mobile commerce, also known as m-commerce, is a natural progression of e-commerce. M-commerce includes any commercial monetary transaction using a mobile device — either a smartphone or tablet rather than a desktop computer — with the ability to do business from almost anywhere, anytime.

But it’s more. M-commerce is about providing convenience to customers, offering experiences, and engaging them in an omnichannel environment within a device that offers selection, security, and convenience. Virtual marketplace apps allow customers to browse, compare prices, and buy products. They’re brought back with brand loyalty incentives, which increases sales.

The range of goods available by mobile commerce is only limited by your imagination. The concept has been spun off into industries and services consisting of three main types: shopping, banking, and payments.

  • Shopping: It’s not unusual to see customers taking advantage of lapses in their everyday lives to do some online shopping. Technology now allows anyone to avoid the supermarket hassle by buying groceries at someplace like a physician’s waiting room or take advantage of curbside pickup on their way home. They can buy home improvement tools during their child’s soccer game and have them delivered to their front door. M-commerce also has made its way into big-ticket items traditionally handled in-person. Customers can negotiate the sale of a house, recognized as one of the biggest purchases ever in a person’s lifetime, on several real-estate apps. Customers also can buy or lease a car on their mobile devices. In 2020, Americans spent $112 billion on app downloads and on in-app purchases on the iOS and Google Play stores, an increase of 25% from 2019, according to App Annie.
  • Banking: Financial institutions have found their way into making m-commerce work. Most banks, even smaller institutions such as credit unions, offer banking options that include deposits, transfers, bill pay, and investment purchases.
  • Payments: Forrester Research has found that checkout options are improving with transaction volume increasing, which is good news for manufacturers. Apps provided by services such as Apple Pay, PayPal, Visa, Google Wallet, and Amazon make it as easy as pushing a button to pay from a stored credit card while emphasizing security and convenience. Mobile wallet is another option, allowing customers to maintain a prepaid account from which amounts can be debited for a purchase.

The case for apps

For decades, manufacturers have had a traditional computer desktop presence. But with a mobile customer base, apps are better tailored for customers on the go. This means keeping m-commerce apps optimized, so businesses can retain their current customer base while attracting new customers. The more optimized manufacturers keep their apps, the higher the chances they’ll gain more business. For customers, m-commerce apps are also mostly intuitive, so getting buyers up to speed isn’t an issue. This equates to good customer service, which leads to better conversion rates and revenue. By integrating social media integration into the app, customers with a positive buying experience can share, thereby becoming a de facto extension of a business’ marketing campaign.

Through apps, customers can also search with their voice, use QR codes to check prices and inventory, track purchases, or have questions answered via chatbots or virtual assistants. An app’s push notification, a real-time alert to registered customers, is the very essence of a D2C strategy and promotes brand loyalty with personal engagement. Push notifications can market daily deals, typically based on the customer’s shopping or browsing history.

The guesswork is mostly gone in the digital era. The customer base can be targeted because of analytics gained from shopping and buying patterns. This D2C strategy depends on the sophistication of a manufacturer’s app, but it’s ideal to ramp up key performance indicators (KPIs) by tracking mobile traffic, the total amount of traffic on the application, average order value, and the value of orders over time.

Let’s face it: Apps have a technological advantage over desktop sites. Apps typically load 1.5x faster on mobile devices, meaning that data is not pulled from a server, enabling customers to browse and purchase products faster.

The app’s technological advantages continue.

  • M-commerce can utilize an app’s global positioning systems (GPS) to either direct customers to their stores or guide them to other locations that might carry desired products.
  • Virtual and augmented reality elements are also a part of the m-commerce app environment, providing omnichannel guidance, or indoor navigation when customers shop in-person.
  • Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) can facilitate this engagement and provide ease throughout the transaction.
  • A big advantage of mobile commerce is its fluidity. Businesses that find something isn’t working can continually make upgrades. Typically, the average app maintenance cost is 20% of the initial development price.

Should manufacturers revamp D2C strategies?

Direct-to-consumer strategies have been common in the consumer-facing industry for some time but expect more B2B manufacturers to test D2C sales techniques.

According to Four51, which was acquired by Sitecore in March 2021, businesses will see these benefits with D2C implementation:

  • Customer data access: Getting real-time access to customer data can help inform decisions such as inventory planning, product assortment, and pricing.
  • Greater brand control: D2C allows manufacturers to control the branding experience from the entire buying cycle.
  • Speed to market: With D2C, businesses can make product changes and get to market faster without third-party channel coordination, seasonal delays, or other retail interruptions.

Mobile commerce for customer engagement

Statistics bear out the impact of m-commerce, from a growing number of mobile-device-bearing customers to businesses adapting their strategies. For manufacturers, finding success is a matter of finding ways to manage and leverage customer engagement.

To learn more about how Sitecore can help with your commerce initiatives, take a look at our Sitecore Experience Commerce solution.


David Schweer is the Senior Director of Product Marketing at Sitecore. Connect with him on LinkedIn