A Mobile Majority: The Tipping Point has Arrived

Mobile Tipping PointIt’s official: the “mobile tipping point” has arrived; That long-predicted moment when more users access the Internet using mobile devices than desktop machines.

While the exact date this happened is open to debate, a number of reports indicate that this tipping point likely occurred sometime earlier this year (2014). Mobile users of the Internet using tablets or smart phones to access Internet are now a growing majority, and those who connect with desktop machines are a shrinking minority.

It Happened with Stunning Speed

This is a sea-change in the way customers and prospects interact with business and ecommerce sites, and it seems to have come upon us with stunning speed. As recently as 2010 the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) – an industry association for online retailers in the UK, found that that only 3 percent of retailer traffic was coming from mobile devices. Now, a recent study from that same organization has found that more than half of the traffic to ecommerce sites – 52 percent – came from smartphones or tablet devices in the second quarter of 2014. That number is apparently growing at a good clip.

These findings have been confirmed up by another recent study from Branding Brand – a company that works with over 200 retailers on their mobile commerce sites. Their study found that mobile devices generated 51 percent of all visits to the websites of retailers in August of 2014. This is a dramatic increase from a mere 4 percent in 2010 – numbers almost identical to the IMRG study.

The Revolution is Upon Us

The mobile majority is no longer a “future concern” – it is happening right now. Dynatrace recently conducted a consumer survey on mobile shopping for this 2014 holiday season, and the results were eye-opening. Fully 56 percent of smartphone or tablet owners plan to use their devices to shop for and buy gifts this holiday season, up from only 7 percent last year. This trend was even more pronounced among millennials – that all important 18 to 34 year old demographic, known for their prolific buying habits. Fully 76 percent of them plan to use smartphones or tablets to find and buy gifts this holiday season. Further, a surprising 41 percent of them will use their smartphones or tablets to make purchases even when they are in shopping the physical stores.

This is a trend that simply cannot be ignored. A highly publicized presentation titled “Mobile is Eating the World” by Benedict Evans of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz noted that there are currently three billion people online and two billion of them use smartphones. Already, more time is spent in mobile apps than in all the rest of the web, and the smartphone industry now dwarfs the PC industry. By 2020, this growth is expected to skyrocket and there will be over four billion people online. By that time 80 percent of all adults on earth will have smartphones.

A Huge Opportunity

The mobile tipping point affects almost all applications on the Internet – search, social, news, entertainment – you name it. The impact is probably most significant when it comes to ecommerce applications. With online payments, the trend is particularly pronounced. According to a recent Forrester Research report, mobile payments currently account for about $50 billion a year. That number is expected to nearly triple by 2019 to $142 billion a year. Clearly this is a huge and growing opportunity.

The Price of Inaction is Huge

The Dynatrace study also sounded a cautionary note – and it is a little harsh: “patience for poor performance is gone”. Nearly half of smartphone or tablet owners will abandon a mobile site if it fails to load in three seconds or less – and if it is slow or has problems, most will simply shop elsewhere. “Retailers are at a tipping point – perform for mobile users, or perish at the hands of competitors,” said Erwan Paccard, Director of Strategy at Dynatrace. “not only is mobile on track to surpass in-store shopping, smartphones and tablets are accompanying customers into stores and becoming virtual shopping assistants”.

Small Business Unprepared

This change happened so quickly that many small business are struggling to catch up. Consumer preferences have outstripped the readiness of most small businesses to profit from this new kind of customer. In fact, according to some estimates, as few as 10 percent of all businesses have mobile-ready websites.

The Time to Act is Now

While it’s not time to panic, businesses should move with a clear sense of urgency. In the past, many businesses saw their websites as being somewhat static: a capital investment that, once deployed, would need to be maintained, but not necessarily changed that much. What they understandably missed is that the growth of mobile has been even faster than the initial growth of the Internet itself. According to Andreessen Horowitz, at least twice as fast. This rate of growth is still accelerating, so it’s only going to get bigger.

Since we know how huge the market is, and that users will quickly abandon a site that isn’t mobile friendly, there is a shocking amount of money being left on the table. Small business is at its best when it faces reality – and this reality cannot be ignored. As the mission control commander of Apollo 13 famously said, “failure is not an option”.

In this new era for those seeking success on the Internet – Mobile is not an option. Whether you choose responsive design, a mobile theme, or a native app, businesses need to think mobile first when planning for 2015.

Mobile Version