By Chanel Smith, EMEA Editor (@PYMNTS_EMEA)
Mobile Shopping VS Desktop Shopping: Which Do Europeans Prefer?
Over the past few decades the eCommerce market has been able to progress, and online shopping has become as second nature as in-store shopping for many. European consumers are most likely to make purchases on their computers, however global mobile penetration rates are growing and mobile activity continues to be embedded into our everyday lives—especially in shopping.
A report from Microsoft Tag suggests that smartphones are the future of retail and predicts that mobile web use will soon overtake its desktop predecessor. If this is the direction the retail sector is moving towards, then merchants must learn why only one-in-10 Europeans are buying on mobiles, and uncover reasons why they still prefer to shop on home computers.
Why Do Europeans Prefer Desktops Over Mobile?
Europe is a digitally sophisticated market and European consumers represent 20 percent of the world’s Internet users. New technology and an improved broadband network have helped to catalyze Europe’s Internet adoption. Smartphones and tablets have caused a shift in consumer behavior in terms of shopping online, yet the majority of people still make most purchases through personal computers.
“I generally prefer to use a computer when shopping online,” said Denise Lauritsen, a marketing consultant at an NGO based in Denmark. “Particularly if the site I shop on does not have a response design, it really bothers me, and it is likely to make me not want to purchase on my phone. I’d rather wait until I’m in reach of a computer to buy because of a larger screen.”
The lack of mobile app design development is a common challenge many Europeans face when shopping online. A Limelight Network study indicated that 80 percent of consumers will abandon a mobile site if they have a bad user experience.
When thinking about how to sell through mobile sites, retailers and developers need to realize that mobile devices aren’t computers with smaller screens—they are entirely new technologies that consumers use very differently. If the consumer process changes, this means new devices must also change to accommodate these behaviors. European merchants are struggling to catch up, and only 20 percent of marketing executives in the UK said they have a mobile optimized site, and 18 percent had a mobile app.
Problems With Mobile Applications
Consumers are familiar with using mobile phones as a medium for communication, however the adoption of smartphones is still relatively recent. Many Europeans are learning how to use various features and discovering how to use smartphones as a retail channel. Mobile shoppers need help from retailers, who must simplify the process and allow a seamless shopping experience.
According to a Smart Insights study, there are several barriers that slow the growth of mobile commerce. Consumers complain that mobile shopping is too expensive and complicated. Additionally, in regards to payments, some customers say they don’t feel safe making payments on their phone, the payments process is too complicated, or there are a lack of options.
Agne Gacionyte, a recent International Business graduate from Brighton University in England, stated, “Security issues are my biggest concern when using my phone to buy things. Mainly because most apps save all my details and since I carry my phone around, I feel like everyone can access it if I leave it unattended.”
Lauritsen partially agreed, but explained her mobile shopping concerns didn’t differ much from her desktop shopping concerns. Still, she prefers her desktop.
“This is probably reasoned in the fact that I feel there is a greater chance of loosing my phones than my computer,” she said. “It’s not so much due to direct security issues that I don’t use the phone for this but because I fear that if I loose my phone then others may be able to get access to my bank details.”
There are also areas in Europe where companies are still updating 4G networks, and consumers complain that loading times can be painfully slow.
“That is the main reason why I use my PC more often. My network provider (Three) has a really bad signal; sometimes I can barely use the Internet on my phone. It even affects payments since it crashes midway and I have no clue whether the payment was successful. Fast Internet means a great deal to me when buying online.”
Technology is quickly entering the market, but consumers still expect newer mobile retail websites to load as quickly as the desktop sites do. No one likes to be kept waiting, and technical problems such as this leave a poor impression with customers.
The Perks Of Mobile Shopping
The prediction that smartphone shopping will become the future of retail does have validity despite present challenges. According to Google’s “Our Mobile Planet: Global Smartphone Users” study, smartphone users buy more often, and they even spend more money than traditional desktop users. The report cites that 20 percent of smartphone users purchase everyday, and 14 percent reported they shop on a weekly basis. The more affluent respondents (67 percent) claimed they regularly shop more than three times per month on their mobile devices.
Additionally, consumers are depending on smartphones for multiple activities that help with purchasing decisions and shopping. The Google study shows 78 percent of consumers use the phone to locate retailers, search inventory and compare prices, 69 percent use it to find more product information, 52 percent use apps to call a retailer or contact them through messaging, and 48 percent want to find promotions and discounts.
Lauritsen disagreed, stating, “If I need to compare prices I do this on the computer as it’s easier to navigate between the different pages.”
Other Europeans enjoy the convenience and mobility offered through mobile channels. The growth of the Internet has helped cultivate the “information-on-the-go” culture and the breadth of searchable information. The Google study reports that consumers want quick and convenient information, especially when product searching and shopping.
Gacionyte said, “I prefer my phone because I always have it with me, like on the street on the way to uni. It’s smaller and lighter therefore it is easier to carry around. For that reason, I can make my purchases at any time since I always have my phone with me.”
The growth of the mobile channel has been both a blessing and a burden for retailers, but it is integral for them to realize the importance of each. Smartphone penetration rates are quickly rising with little signs of slowing down. Merchants cannot sweep these consumer concerns under the rug and must realize these improvements will be well worth the investment since several studies all nod to the same conclusion: mobile devices are here to stay, and online retailers’ opportunity for mCommerce growth is significant.
Links for studies: