May 17, 2016

Fastest Growing Retail Product Categories Boast Greatest Share of Mobile Spending

Adam Lella
Senior Marketing Insights Analyst

comScore’s Q1 2016 State of Online Retail webinar is being held this Wednesday, May 18, and we wanted to share a sneak peek into one of the major themes of the presentation: the shift in spending from desktop to mobile. Particularly, how is this shift affecting certain product categories vs. others?

From looking at the share of online spend by platform, there is a huge amount of variation from category to category. Generally speaking, consumers are much more likely to make a purchase on their phone or tablet in categories with relatively inexpensive and lower consideration products. For example, a movie ticket is an inexpensive purchase with low risk (two hours of your time), whereas a new computer can run hundreds or thousands of dollars and typically involves a fair amount of customization and choosing of product specs. Consequently we see that mobile drives 36% of spending in the Event Tickets category vs. just 8% in the Computer Hardware category.

To understand why a category’s share of dollars by platform can vary so much, one must first understand how shopping behavior differs by platform. Nearly two-thirds of all time spent shopping online occurs on mobile devices. Much of this online shopping activity is passive, especially early on in the buying process. Browsing retail products on mobile requires only a limited amount of one’s attention – which means people can do it on-the-go, when they find a small block of free time, or simply whenever curiosity or boredom strikes them.

But when it’s time to make a purchase, things can get more complicated. Certain products might require more thought or research, such as comparing the prices and features of a new flat screen TV. In this example, there is high risk to making the wrong purchase decision given its steep price and the difficulty in returning such a large item. For these types of products, consumers want to spend more time researching and weighing their options, which is easier accomplished on a computer screen with the ability to quickly and easily toggle between screens.

Conversely, with lower consideration products, such as movies, video games and toys, the chances of making a poor decision and the impact of that decision are both considerably lower. Even though there will always be some friction when buying on mobile – smaller screen, security concerns, hassle of inputting credit card information, etc. – consumers are more willing to make the purchase if price and the complexity of the purchase don’t also hold them back.

Eliminating this friction on mobile is critical for retailers, as product categories with the highest mobile share of digital commerce tend to see greater online sales growth than the categories that haven’t had success on this platform. This correlation suggests that mobile may be enabling the purchase of products that were previously less likely to be purchased online altogether. In the past, it might have been just as easy to purchase something in the physical store as it was to go through the online buying process on one’s desktop computer. But in today’s mobile-centric world, smartphones and tablets allow people to make use of that previously unclaimed “in between time” in their lives, and they’re taking advantage of it to make small, lower consideration purchases.

The strong correlation between mobile share of dollars and total digital commerce growth highlights just how important mobile commerce is as a growth driver in today’s online retail market. For more insights into how mobile is influencing digital commerce, register for our State of Online Retail in Q1 2016 webinar today.

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