Editor's Choice Europe Paytech

Running the Numbers: Developments in Mobile Phone Commerce

Given the ubiquity of the smartphone, it’s no surprise to hear that the trend for mobile commerce has grown and grown in recent years. According to recent statistics over 70 percent of eCommerce spend is carried out by mobile. But facts like these don’t actually tell the whole story, nor do they help retailers who are scratching their heads to meet the ever-evolving demands of consumers.  

Mobile commerce, or Commerce, suggests that the process of searching, selecting, ordering and paying is done solely on one smartphone. But Ralf Gladis CEO of Computop, who offer omnichannel payment transactions, believes that the customer journey is much more nuanced. For instance, a product can be searched for on a tablet while sitting in front of the TV; it could be a suggestion from Alexa when enquiring about prices on Amazon Marketplace; it could be purchased through a special offer sent by email and completed on a PC, or ordered via mobile using click and collect and picked up in-store. He thinks that the term for this trend should really be ‘cross-device shopping’.

Ralf Gladis, CEO of Computop. Photo credit: Sonja Och

Gladis explains, “Retailers rely on data to make their decisions, but when it comes to smartphones, a lot of this data is noise from which it is hard to filter actionable insight. Conversion statistics, for example, include page impressions from every tab the consumer opens when searching for a product. Even if a smartphone doesn’t have dozens of browser tabs open, the conversion rate is still half that of a PC.” 

But what Computop has found is that the most telling data actually comes from payment statistics. In contrast to the figure given above, research by data analysis company Comscore, found that although consumers spend 69 percent of their online time on a portable device, they still spend only one in five of their e-commerce dollars “mobile”. Another study by ibi Research in Germany based on 170 million genuine, anonymised transactions completed via Computop Paygate in 2017 and 2018 found that not even one in ten successful transactions was carried out via mobile phone. 

When Comscore analysts looked more deeply into their study, they found several reasons why customers do not pay on their smartphones. Security was a concern, as was the technical handicap of a small screen for product clarity, navigation and for entering personal payment details. 

However, security worries are more easily managed due to the increasing use of biometric technology, which relies on methods such as fingerprint scanning to identify the customer and authorise deduction of funds from their bank account. 

The small screen issues, on the other hand, are being addressed by developers with responsive design that adapts the display of text and images to the size and orientation of the screen. Because shopping apps developed specifically for Android or iOS, while being functionally superior to any website, also take up too much memory bandwidth, the latest plan is for a hybrid app that will work within the browser. The aim of this is to load the typical core elements of an app in the background when accessing a retailer’s website and save them in such a way that the shopping session can be followed through to payment. The ‘persistent shopping basket’, an innovation used by many online retailers to retain the selected items on a cloud server, regardless of whether a customer opens their account on different devices or at different times, would be reflected in the hybrid app. 

The crux of the matter is the automatic recognition of the customer. On Amazon and eBay this is easy because customers almost always log in before browsing the web and the mobile app also ensures automatic log-in. Apple users, on the other hand, are familiar with Handoff, a practical cloud function that ensures a seamless continuation of an online session on another device from the manufacturer. The iCloud service also provides a password manager, so that even automatically generated hex code passwords that no one wants to enter via a smartphone touch keypad can be inserted conveniently and biometrically secured.

Gladis adds, “The extent and speed with which the mobile checkout is gaining ground is still up for debate because of the many parameters involved. There is much to be said for a convergence of payment procedures online and at the physical point-of-sale – at least in those countries where regulation supports friction-free biometric payments on mobile devices. However, both Apple Pay and Google Pay are working towards the mobile phone becoming a universal digital wallet and the infrastructure, security protocols and device designs necessary to support this are being enhanced rapidly. So, although payment still seems to be the sticking point when it comes to the dominance of mobiles in the commerce journey, change is happening and I anticipate that this will no longer be a concern in the future.” 



  • Gina is a fintech journalist (BA, MA) who works across broadcast and print. She has written for most national newspapers and started her career in BBC local radio.

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