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Lessons Learned from Asia’s M-Commerce Boom

If you’re looking for good examples of m-commerce done right, take a look at the Far East. Especially South Korea is leading the way into a world dominated by m-commerce with over half of all digital commerce now going through mobile devices and still growing. Furthermore, 43% of people bought something on their smartphone in the past month alone. Japan is showing similar numbers, conversion rates on mobile are over 4 times higher than those in the US. China also saw huge gains, on Singles Day in November 2015 Alibaba received 69% of its $14.3 billion worth of orders from a mobile device. The approximately $10 billion figure is more than double the total online sales the United States saw on Black Friday. What Eastern m-commerce wisdom can we impart to our businesses in the West?

Favorable Preconditions for M-Commerce

For any new technological development it is important that the preconditions that are needed to grow are favorable. This is certainly the case in South Korea and Japan. South Korea has the 2nd highest smartphone penetration in the world which is unsurprising given the numbers above. Naturally, the more people that have a smartphone the more people there’ll be to shop from them. A proper internet connection is required as well and again South Korea tops the lists of internet speed and penetration and Japan is a close second. Although hard to quantify, cultural willingness to adopt new technologies also plays a part. For example, research found that virtually all age groups were active online in South Korea.

Naturally, as a single organization there’s not much you can do to influence these factors but it is possible to find sub-markets that share these characteristics within Western markets and target these more extensively.


Identifying Mobile First Customers for M-Commerce

Just like there are mobile first companies there are also mobile first shoppers. These are the people that have ditched their big laptops and PCs and are mostly shopping on their mobile devices. If you assumed that these are mostly kids that never even used PCs as their primary device to get online, think again. In South Korea the most active mobile shoppers are mothers of young children in their thirties. And this is not a cultural glitch either, the largest group of mobile first shoppers in the US have a similar makeup in terms of demographics: working mothers in their thirties with young children.

Knowing what type of audiences are likely to convert on mobile is pivotal for online retailers and even more important is to know how to reach them on their new favorite shopping channel. It is therefore key to ensure the right audience segmentation data is obtained about their own customer base and feed this into targeted mobile marketing campaigns. A proper Data Management Platform (DMP) is virtually indispensable to achieve this.


Adapt to Mobile Buying Behavior and Preferences

When it comes to mobile shopping, customers are often looking for quick satisfaction. In South Korea this behavior translates into 17% of mobile conversion coming from customers that did no prior research compared to only 6% on desktop. This means that in some cases less is more when it comes to the amount of products that are offered. Researching a product’s features is not convenient on smaller screens so it is more important to quickly let the customer find what they’re looking for than to give them an endless list of options. Having a strong foundation of audience data comes in handy here as well in order to be able to give the right recommendations to the different types of customers visiting the app or mobile website.

A visible trend that is not confined to Asia is how people find the products they are looking for. Where Google used to be the starting point for these searches, on mobile retailer apps are increasingly becoming the first touch point in a purchase journey. This means mobile app user acquisition and retention need to be key priorities for m-commerce marketing campaigns.

Streamlined Payment

It goes without saying that the mobile website or app itself needs to be optimized for (different sizes of) mobile devices. The absolute most important part in this is to have the easiest imaginable payment process. Japan is on the forefront of mobile payments (both online and in-store) and this is a major factor in explaining the 300% difference in conversion rates between American and Japanese mobile shoppers. Research from eMarketer confirms this as “easier checkout” was by far the most cited reason that would lead to more mobile purchasing.


Although m-commerce is not taking off as spectacularly in the West as in the East, it’s still a huge growing market as the account of e-commerce sales through mobile is predicted to grow to 50% in the coming 4 years, up from about 33% today. Furthermore, m-commerce plays a vital role in omnichannel strategies which increases its importance way beyond the aforementioned sales data makes it seem. A strong mobile commerce strategy is simply something you cannot do without in this day and age.


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Published inE-CommerceMobilePublished in 2016

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