E-Commerce has gradually placed itself as one of the major players in the B2C model of consumer products, commanding nearly 7.3% of the entire world’s retail sales in 2015 itself. Just how big is that number? Estimates point to the net worth of e-commerce on a global scale to be around $1.672 trillion for the year 2015 itself, with numbers pointing toward huge growth from the Asia Pacific region. So what has been the driving force behind the huge number of people switching to online shopping from the more traditional brick and mortar stores ? A recent report by e-Marketer has revealed that the cause might very well be the convenience factor of smartphones.
With the number of LTE subscribers scheduled to take a huge leap forward in the densely populated regions of Asia Pacific, we find that this region will be fuelling the growth of e-commerce through smartphones for the foreseeable future. While first-time smartphone users have typically been reticent to shop and pay online in the past, it seems that the convenience and mobility of smartphone have been able to change the mindset of people in this region! More than ever before, people are now switching to their mobiles whenever they have to shop online and today we aim to find out the reasons for this sea change in mentality and how it may affect M-commerce and on a bigger perspective, E-Commerce in the future.
M-Commerce: The M Stands For Mobility
In one of the largest of its kinds surveys performed on the Asia Pacific Region on users who have made a purchase in the last 3 months or are on the verge of doing so during the next 6 months, the answers of the participants across regions revealed a similar story across the board. Asia is largest e-Commerce market and the biggest smartphone market in the world right now, nearly 3 out of every 4 respondent chose convenience as a major factor for going with mobile shopping. The trend remains true across the 5 largest e-Commerce markets in the region with nearly every one out of every second person choosing convenience as the driving force behind M-Commerce.
The top two reasons for people in countries ranging from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam being the convenience factor and the ability to shop on the go through their smartphones.
Interestingly enough, the first two options do have some mutual overlap between them as the ability shop on the go does factor in as a form of convenience. Thus, although the numbers shift from Convenience in countries like Singapore and Thailand to Mobility in countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines; we have clubbed them together for the purpose of this analysis.
While not mentioned in the graph above, the markets of New Zealand and the rapidly growing smartphone space of India exhibit a similar pattern where most of the users chose to shop on mobile for the ease of use while traveling. In Australia, most of the new smartphone users choose to shop via their smartphones because of the convenience factor as well! So how can e-Commerce giant use this finding to increase their conversion rates? We go in-depth into just that, in our final segment.
India and China are the two largest smartphone markets in the world in terms of sheer volume. That coupled with the findings of this latest report, brings credibility to the fact that among the top 10 countries to show strong YoY growth in the e-Commerce segment, 4 countries from the Asia Pacific would find themselves mentioned. China with 42.1% YoY Growth and a net worth of $672.01 billion, lead the list with Japan, Korea nad Australia also making it to the list.
As the astute observer has already figured out, all four of these markets represent fairly mature smartphone markets with widespread proliferation of 4G and LTE. So why did India despite having the second highest number of smartphone users have an e-Commerce industry that is worth a measly $38 billion? As we discussed in detail in an earlier article, mobile conversion rates are the main culprit. So, how does e-Commerce companies convert the window shoppers into actual customers?
We have laid out a few pointers that e-Commerce companies should look to incorporate into their future plans if they were to survive in the smartphone-centric web.
- For the first time in the history of the Internet, people are searching more on smartphones than through their desktops. As this trend continues to grow, we will see a move away from traditional mobile websites to dedicated apps. In M-commerce, as it currently stands, one must have an app to have any hopes of making it big.
- However, with almost everyone from e-Commerce startups to brick and mortar conglomerates jumping on the app bandwagon, just having any normal app is not going to cut it anymore. App developers need to have unique features that will help them stand out and increase user retention. The only way to get better conversion rates is to make the users engage and interact more with an app and companies are finding new ways like integrating social media, to help their cause.
- But a business model based solely on discounts and sales is not sustainable as has been found out the hard way by Indian e-Commerce players. Instead, they must look to move forward and introduce newer strategies that make sound business sense. These include having easy to use and intuitive interfaces for their apps and improving search algorithms so that the consumer doesn’t get frustrated.
- In spite of all of these efforts, one of the major factors that hinder online shopping are connectivity and ease of payment. While connectivity is an issue that will hopefully be dissipated on the Asia-Pacific region in the next half a decade, e-Commerce companies must make efforts to integrate mobile payments like Samsung Pay and Apple Pay into their apps.
It seems that the E-commerce companies are on the right track as in the past year as nearly half of the people who have a smartphone in this region has made at least one purchase through their smartphone. Leading from the front are China and India with 70.1% and 62.9% of people having already made at least one online purchase through their smartphones.
“China will exceed $1 trillion in retail ecommerce sales by 2018, more than a 40% share of worldwide retail e-commerce.” predicts another report.
With the growth in mobile wallets being spearheaded by emerging markets in China and India at 45% and 36.7%, respectively, it seems that the two giants in the smartphone arena are looking to take the entire Asia-Pacific by storm! Will the traditional retail channels be able to hold their own in the face of this onslaught from the smartphone? However the answer to that question turns out, we will keep a close watch on that saga. For now, in smartphones, e-Commerce has found what could possibly turn out to be an invincible weapon.