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Digital Path to Purchase Requires a Mobile First Mentality

May 12, 2016


“With its same-day delivery and a mobile-first mentality,” writes Adrienne LaFrance (@AdrienneLaF), “Diapers.com is currently doing business in the environment that other retailers will inevitably have to adapt to.”[1] Bob Violino (@BobViolino) reports a study from ABI Research concludes mobile technologies, especially smartphones, are disrupting the business landscape so completely that retailers are going to have to adapt to this new terrain or perish. “As brick-and-mortar retail transforms,” Violino reports, “merchandisers need to advance their in-store technology and leverage the power of the smartphone or face extinction.”[2] Matt Lawson (@onemanisthelaw) adds, “Whether you’re a global brand or the shop around the corner, the shift to mobile is changing your customers’ behavior in and out of the store.”[3] Both brick-and-mortar and online retailers are feeling the effects of mobile technology on the consumer digital path to purchase. Mobile technologies played a significant role during last year’s holiday season with nearly one in every five consumers making a mobile purchase. “Mobile made its presence known — with authority — this [past] holiday season,” Tracy Maple (@tracycopygrrrl) reported, “accounting for an estimated 18% of more than $69 billion in e-commerce sales, according to web measurement firm comScore Inc. data.”[4]


Retailers know the digital path to purchase can no longer be ignored and many of them are struggling to implement a successful omnichannel strategy. Based on the trends discussed above, I agree with LaFrance that a mobile-first mentality is a good place to start. That doesn’t mean that other digital paths can be ignored. Zac Pinkham(@zacpinkham), Managing Director at Millennial Media, notes, “We live in a world of multi-screens, multiplatforms, and multi-devices — from smartphones to connected TVs to wearables, to name but a few.”[5] He continues:

“Consequently consumers are ever more accustomed to using a variety of devices at different moments throughout the day, and increasingly in tandem with each other. … Think of the most recent item you bought online. Did it follow a linear path to purchase where you engaged with just one screen? Unlikely I’m sure. As these mobile experiences evolve, with faster data connections and better devices, consumers are also depending on their smartphones and tablets for the important stuff that used to be reserved for PCs — like purchases and sign-ups. Why then would advertisers choose to run campaigns across screens independently? Yes, it is simple to establish which screens perform best, but would the takeaway be to stop advertising on one of these screens? Consumers that engage across a range of devices and mediums expect consistency from brands around look, feel and messaging. As such, advertisers that buy across multiple channels should use cross-device targeting to deliver consistent and relevant messages to consumers. Mobile gives lots of data signals to advertisers — each time a consumer opens an app there is anything between five and 30 different bits of data, from the device being used to the mobile network. Savvy brands are already looking at how best they leverage that data to deploy a joined-up cross-screen advertising strategy. Done right, this type of targeting can see dramatic returns for advertisers.”

Violino notes brick-and-mortar retailers have just as many reasons to leverage data as online retailers. “Because retailers don’t only have one type of shopper,” he writes, “the first step to understanding the customer base is to bring online analytics to the real world by leveraging existing technologies, such as iBeacons, camera analytics and Wi-Fi. Using the smartphone as a platform then creates a new way for retailers to personally engage and entice customers, while also opening a new advertising revenue channel.” He goes on to note that “younger generations are the agents of this revolution.” Patrick Connolly (@ABI_Connolly), principal analyst at ABI Research, adds, “Millennials play a large role in the in-store shopping revolution, as their smartphones are basically an evolutionary extension that the retail industry has yet to catch up with. The conceptual battle between brick-and-mortar versus online is dead. All retailers must become omnichannel and harness the power of the smartphone by developing next-generation, personalized experiences.” That’s worth restating. “All retailers must become omnichannel and harness the power of the smartphone by developing next-generation, personalized experiences.”


Some retailers might believe that mobile shopping is being over hyped. After all, LaFrance reports that in 2014 “mobile shopping accounted for just 1 percent of the multi-trillion-dollar retail market in the United States.” Last summer, however, Mark Brohan (@markbrohan) reported, “Mobile commerce continues to gain momentum as a mainstream way for consumers to shop online. In fact mobile commerce now accounts for nearly one-third of all U.S. e-commerce sales.”[6] Mobify gathered the following data about mobile transactions and they deserve attention:[7]


  • Mobile web adoption is growing 8 times faster than web adoption did in the 1990s and early 2000s. (Source: Nielsen)
  • There are over 1.2 billion people accessing the web from their mobile phones. (Source: Trinity Digital Marketing)
  • 58% of all US consumers already own a smartphone. (Source: comScore)
  • Global mobile traffic now accounts for 15% of all internet traffic. (Source: Internet trends 2013)
  • 72% of mobile e-business and marketing executives understands the strategic importance of mobile to their organization. (Source: Forrester)
  • 88% of people agree that having a mobile device with realtime information makes them more spontaneous with shopping. (Source: Latitude)
  • 90% of people move between devices to accomplish a goal. (Source: Google)
  • 51% of shoppers research online and visit a store to purchase. (Source: Ipsos Mediact)
  • 44% research online and purchase online. (Source: Ipsos Mediact)
  • 30% of mobile shoppers abandon a transaction if the experience is not optimized for mobile. (Source: MoPowered)
  • 71% of global mobile web users expect websites to load as quickly, almost as quickly, or faster on their mobile phone compared to the computer they use at home. (Source: Compuware)
  • Every 100ms increase in load time decreases sales by 1%. (Source: Amazon)
  • 57% of mobile customers will abandon your site if they have to wait 3 seconds for a page to load. (Source: Strangeloop Networks)
  • Consumers expect transactions to be easier on mobile than they are offline (51%) or on a desktop computer (50%). (Source: IBM)
  • 63% of people expect to be doing more shopping on their mobile devices over the next couple of years. (Source: Latitude)


Considering those facts it is little wonder so many analysts argue that retailers need to pay more attention to the digital path to purchase and increasingly important role that mobile technologies are playing in that journey. If you are still not convinced, Mobify adds:


  • 61% of people have a better opinion of brands when they offer a good mobile experience. (Source: Latitude)
  • 57% of users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site. (Source: Google)


Google also asserts, “Not having a mobile optimized website is like closing your store one day a week.” The writing is on the wall (or should we say the writing is on the smartphone screen) — the future belongs to the digital path to purchase and mobile technologies are driving that trend.


[1] Adrienne LaFrance, “Sleep-Deprived Moms Are Already Living in the Future of Online Shopping,” The Atlantic, 7 July 2015.
[2] Bob Violino, “Smartphone, Online Data Analytics the Key for Retailer Survival,” Information Management, 30 March 2016.
[3] Matt Lawson, “5 Ways Consumers Connect to Stores With Mobile Shopping,” Think with Google, February 2016.
[4] Tracy Maple, “Mobile accounts for nearly 1 in 5 online holiday purchases,” Internet Retailer, 8 January 2016.
[5] Zac Pinkham, “Cross-screen campaigns: Mobile’s new path for digital engagement,” The Drum, 15 December 2014.
[6] Mark Brohan, “Mobile commerce is now 30% of all U.S. e-commerce,” Internet Retailer, 18 August 2015.
[7] “50 Must-Know Mobile Commerce Statistics and Facts,” Mobify.

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