E-commerce & m-commerce: the key differences

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Sasha Hodes
E-commerce & m-commerce: the key differences

Table of Content:

  1. What is the difference between ecommerce and mcommerce?
  2. The pros & cons of mcommerce
    • Expanded sales opportunities
    • Analyzing behavioral trends
    • Targeting users effectively
    • Faster transactions
    • Strong competition
    • Customer data protection
    • Personal vs. online connection
  3. Implementing mobile commerce into app features
  4. The best examples of mcommerce apps
    • Amazon
    • Deliveroo
    • Monzo
  5. The current and future states of m-commerce

As technology allows, the many strands of e-commerce become applicable to marketing and sales tools - including most mobile apps - in increasingly diverse and nuanced ways. Mobile commerce (m-commerce) is a term that online entrepreneurs have been talking about a lot recently — for good reason as well!

Certainly in the past few years, m-commerce has evolved into the major facet of e-commerce and you should know that it’s here to stay. We’ll cover the fundamentals in more detail.

What is the difference between ecommerce and mcommerce?

So the obvious questions you may have at this point: What is m-commerce, and how exactly does it differ from e-commerce? Well, the term m-commerce - first coined in 1997 - is defined as the use of wireless devices like mobile phones or tablets to perform electronic commercial activities. In other words, m-commerce puts e-commerce directly into the hands of consumers:

  • E-commerce — The general overarching term to describe commercial activities performed online, like trading goods and services.
  • M-commerce — A branch or variation of e-commerce tailored to commercial activities being performed specifically on mobile devices.

A key difference to note is while e-commerce focuses on the overall online shopping experience, m-commerce drills into the customer shopping journey on mobile devices. The importance of m-commerce cannot be understated for your mobile app business, given that mobile devices are the main access channel to connect your customers.

While not a definitive list of actions m-commerce is used for, it typically facilitates the following:

  • Buying and selling products
  • Online banking
  • Personal and utility payments

The pros & cons of mcommerce

So now, we’re able to establish that m-commerce is - generally - viewed as a big part of the future of e-commerce, or commerce performed digitally. Knowing the key advantages of m-commerce is essential for mobile app businesses to thrive. Let’s take a look:

Expanded sales opportunities

Mobile device owners and app users make up a significant proportion of the overall consumer base already and are growing larger month by month. M-commerce connects you directly with these users and expands the opportunity for your business to reach wider audiences and increase sales.

Analyzing behavioral trends

The consumer data and behavioral insights that m-commerce offers you can directly shape the changes and tweaks you make to the customer journey. Mobile app businesses can collate information from initial entry into the online store to the products viewed, and the time taken to complete a purchase. These metrics are invaluable for gauging the effectiveness of your customer journey to highlight and address any pain points.

Targeting users effectively

Reaching your customer base effectively - and punctually - is critical to the likelihood of them completing a purchase. M-commerce helps you reach your customers at the right time by utilizing data on user demographics or geographic location. Connecting with your desired audience through targeted ads can be the difference in losing or converting a sale.

Faster transactions

Businesses are continually aiming for better and more efficient buying experiences for their customers. Most shopping apps and mobile app companies alike develop their products with this in mind and so should you. Using faster transaction speeds than other websites and user-friendly interfaces, you can guide your customer seamlessly towards the point of purchase — one of the main factors contributing to the rapid overall growth of m-commerce.

With all of this in mind, there are some disadvantages of m-commerce that you should also be aware of:

Strong competition

With the surge in m-commerce necessity for your business come other companies with the same problem. The fact is, most companies have had to adapt and invest in m-commerce to compete and succeed. To stand out or lead in their respective markets, mobile businesses are now forced to find a niche in an online environment now saturated with competitors vying for the spotlight.

Customer data protection

Customer identity theft and stolen payment details are recurring problems for businesses conducting online operations. If you’re a mobile app company offering products or services for sale, then it is your responsibility to ensure full compliance with regulatory standards and implement measures to combat fraud. Customer trust is invaluable to your success — just as failing to properly protect customer information is damaging to your credibility.

Personal vs. online connection

Despite the huge number of interactions between businesses and consumers every day, online shopping and m-commerce are still considered ‘impersonal’. Customized offers, regular perks, and loyalty points are proven methods of giving your customers a feeling of appreciation. ‘Mobile-first’ apps are great for introducing your offering to customers in app-form straightaway — helping to circumnavigate this issue slightly.

The pros & cons of m-commerce
The pros & cons of m-commerce

Implementing mobile commerce into app features

M-commerce has huge potential for your mobile business and you can begin to see just how much you stand to gain in terms of engagement, conversion, and overall revenue rates. Let’s see how m-commerce is applied to existing mobile application features:

Improving experience — Mobile apps implement several features to enhance the user experience and make everything quicker and easier for them to make a purchase. Successful apps include sleek design, enticing images, mobile and voice search, simple navigation, social media integration, and one-click ordering to name a few.

Integrating technology — As technology is facilitating most m-commerce capabilities, it makes sense that the latest tech is used in modern-day apps. Features like augmented and virtual reality are becoming more commonplace, allowing consumers to virtually try out your products before they buy. Other features like chatbots that provide instant customer service and real-time inventory use simpler technology but are staples of any successful online marketplace today.

Engaging effectively — We mentioned earlier that customer engagement was a slight pitfall of m-commerce. To bring business and customers closer together, features like push notifications and in-app messaging foster consumer gratification, engagement, and deliver an omnichannel brand experience. Personalized offers and loyalty points are also great contributors to improving customer relations and retention rates. 

Securing payment — Transactions are at the heart of commerce, so ensuring they are safely and efficiently completed is only going to reap rewards for your business. Current m-commerce apps include features like mobile wallets, one-click ordering, and payment plans to make it as easy and safe as possible for customers to transact. M-commerce apps are already delivering faster transaction speeds than traditional websites, but there is always room for improvement!

Integrating with physical stores — Customers use m-commerce apps in different ways; to make purchases immediately and as tools for making future purchases in-store. Features like maps, saved items, barcodes and QR codes offer the customer further information regarding price, product specifications, and stock availability at different locations. You must cater to all of your customer base, not just your ‘mobile-first’ users.

The best examples of mcommerce apps 

It is also worth going through a few of the businesses who have implemented m-commerce successfully and who we think is worthy of a notable mention or two:

Amazon

Customers can create shopping lists - or ‘Wish Lists’ - view stock inventory easily, and utilize ‘one-click-to-buy’ to purchase everything immediately and the customer receives push notifications along the delivery timeline.

Their Amazon Prime subscription service proved invaluable too, making same-day delivery available to customers for a large percentage of online stock. Access to their online TV streaming service is provided too — a huge perk for customers and a great move from a brand loyalty perspective.

Amazon Pay - a mobile wallet and online buy button - and other integrations such as QR codes and augmented reality engage much broader audiences. Today, most of us would probably struggle to find anyone who hasn’t bought anything from Amazon at least once!

Deliveroo

Some businesses have revolutionized the way we consume goods — literally. The impact of m-commerce on the food industry - particularly in the takeaway delivery space - is no more prevalent than with Deliveroo.

The interface is well-designed and the user journey is simple. Your food order inside the app works just like a ‘Saved Items’ list within a shopping app, with purchasing made simple through basic steps and fast transactions.

Push notifications and live maps provide regular updates on the progress of your order, when it’s arrived, and subsequent future offers and targeted prompts to invite you to reorder the same thing again next week — which we’ve all done, let’s be honest.

Monzo

The fintech space has exploded over the past few years with several names leading the way — all with slightly different offerings. Monzo has been a success story for how brilliantly simple they made everyday online banking for people.

The app’s success hinges on the speed of transactions over anything, with users able to make financial transfers instantaneously. Payees can be stored in the app like mobile phone contacts, making future payments just as easy to complete.

Simple features like monthly budgeting, push notifications, and a savings pot set them apart from the competition. Their success is no surprise given their focus on m-commerce as fundamental to the way the business evolves.

The current and future states of m-commerce

As we can see, the rapid uptake of m-commerce - within e-commerce - has been astounding. With most customers around the world taking to online shopping as a necessity during the lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can attribute this in part to the success of m-commerce and how it is now at the forefront of the minds of mobile app business owners.

Bearing in mind that online lockdown shopping in just a couple of months, equated to 10 years of e-commerce growth in the same time period, it’s easy to see how m-commerce is the future of online commerce. Recent m-commerce trends would also indicate that consumers will continue to use mobile payments beyond the pandemic.

It’s important to remember that positive customer experiences are now essential for convincing customers to build a lasting relationship with your brand. Speed, safety, flexibility, and convenience will remain in your customers’ minds now and into the future as they want a consistent, seamless, and immersive experience across all touch-points of your product. A focus on improving the customer journey and the checkout experience is essential for your app business — whichever way your customers choose to shop.

M-commerce should be seen as a way of facilitating larger amounts of online consumers, but also a tool from which all consumers can benefit. Use it to help drive your sales through your app and in physical stores, where applicable, by reaching a wider and diverse set of customers. The future of m-commerce is in both online and offline shopping.

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