E-commerce sites of all kinds have a new focus: mobile. One need only look at a few stats to see why. For instance, according to a report by Mobify, mobile web adoption is growing eight times faster than web adoption did in the 1990s; mobile traffic now accounts for 15% of all web traffic; 90% of people move between devices to accomplish things; U.S. mobile commerce sales hit $24.66 billion in 2012, up 81% from 2011; and 58% of consumers in North America now own a smartphone.
Mobile commerce has become especially important for fashion retailers. Sites like Net-a-Porter, Amazon, eBay, Shopstyle, The Fancy, Lyst Threadflip, Modcloth, and Nordstrom have all seen significant growth in mobile traffic and sales over the past couple of years, some exponential. In 2012, sales from a mobile device accounted for over 20%—more than $260 million—of Nordstrom's total direct sales compared to less than 4% in 2010. Sephora saw a 150% increase in mobile sales over the past year. Threadflip, a leading fashion re-sale site, saw a whopping 600% uptick in sales after updating their mobile app this year. EBay generated $13 million in mobile sales in 2012 and expects to generate at least $20 billion in 2013. And interestingly, for sites like Amazon and eBay, that sell a variety of categories, fashion came out on top. 183 fashion items are sold on eBay every minute through mobile and fashion was the top category on mobile in the U.S., UK, Australia and France.
Part of the reason could be the sense of urgency fashion often inspires--especially on sites like eBay and Threadflip, where you have to act fast before someone else nabs the item you want--as well as many of our natural tendencies to impulse buy when it comes to fashion.
And retailers are pushing to make it easier for us to do so--optimizing their mobile apps and sites for more than just browsing and sharing, but also buying.
For instance, eBay recently cut ads from its apps to decrease distraction from making purchases.
Threadflip founder Manik Singh told us he knew it was time to focus on mobile when the company noticed that more than half of their emails were being opened on mobile and that nearly half of their site activity was also coming from a mobile device. "We knew we had to create a fully functional app that provided both our buyers and sellers with the tools that they needed and a seamless experience," Singh said. "Since we revamped the app, we've seen a ton of growth! The majority of new listings come from mobile as well as about half our daily sales." In addition to making buying and selling an easier, more seamless experience, Threadflip implemented a tool called card.io that allows buyers to scan their credit card with their phone camera to make purchases, to make things even easier.
Melissa Davis, VP of shopping aggregator site ShopStyle (which is part of the PopSugar network), said mobile is a huge priority for them, as they've seen tremendous growth over the past year. They update their mobile app about once per month to improve functionality. Their most recent update made sharing and favoriting easier. Davis says even if people aren't buying through ShopStyle on their mobile device, they are favoriting on their mobile device and then going to a desktop and purchasing later. In fact, the platform sees an average of 100,000 mobile favorites per day, which is more than they get via desktop. One challenge they're focused on solving is facilitating a smoother checkout, since items bought through ShopStyle are first rerouted to a different retailer's site that may not be optimized for mobile.
Sites like Lyst and the Fancy, which also aggregate products from third-party brands and retailers, face a similar challenge, but are keen on making mobile a seamless part of their platform. Fancy founder Joe Einhorn expressed this when we interviewed him last month as part of his ambitious overall vision for the Fancy, which is basically to make everything available to anyone from any device anywhere at any time, all shipped to you from the same place.
"I will say mobile is increasingly significant for us," said Lyst co-founder Chris Morton. "We started the year at about 8% now we have 30%. Our app is still young and we plan to focus on it more." In addition to making the site's new universal cart feature available "imminently," he plans to make Lyst's mobile app available in more languages, as the site is available in over 100 countries, but the app only in English.
Indeed, e-tailers would be wise to accommodate other countries. As Einhorn put it, "Half of our business and half of our users are outside the USA and outside of the USA everybody is young, has a mobile device and wants to shop that way and they’re crazy underserved." Japan has been especially quick to adapt to mobile shopping. The country has seen a rise in mobile-only shopping apps, as many Japanese consumers under 30 use mobile devices as their only method of accessing the internet.
It's also a sign of where things are headed. Because, you know, everything starts in Japan. "It's only a matter of time before mobile sales surpass online," said Singh confidently. With the growth of smartphone and tablet sales--in three years, it's believed that more adults will own tablets than PCs--it does seem inevitable.
Additionally, everyone else (as in, even people and companies that aren't explicitly e-commerce sites) is looking for ways to monetize their mobile apps as mobile use increases.
Style sharing app Pose recently added e-commerce to their popular mobile app. New app Figr, which allows users to style current runway looks with street style with the swipe of a finger, plans to potentially add an e-commerce feature, which attracted participating brands as a way for them to get into the e-commerce game. Covet, a mobile fashion game funded by Rachel Zoe, recently partnered with real brands to include an e-commerce feature. And RewardStyle, an affiliate program through which fashion bloggers can link to an item and get a commission, recently made those capabilities mobile-friendly with an app.
In terms of where mobile commerce is headed, innovators are looking for ways to get people to make purchases they didn't even know they wanted to make, perhaps through push notifications. "Calls to action such as these could be categorized as 'noise' if they were tried exclusively via email and on the web; however mobile opens up a desire for this kind of communication and the ability to immediately act upon them," Singh pointed out. "Functionalities like mobile locators lead to advantages such as finding products that are nearby (something much harder to accomplish from a website)."
In other words, keep an eye on your bank accounts, guys. From what it sounds like, shopping is going to get so easy you might not even know you're doing it.