What is M-Commerce & How Will It Affect B2B Sales?

Sarah Leung
July 28, 2015

In January of last year, mobile devices accounted for 55% of Internet usage in the United States, surpassing PCs (45%) for the first time in history. Considering that mobile devices accounted for just 23% of web traffic two years before, it’s clear just how much (and how quickly) these devices have made an impact on our lives. Indeed, according to the Boston Consulting Group, “Not even the industrial revolution created such a swift and radical explosion in technological innovation and economic growth worldwide. Nearly all fundamental human pursuits have been touched, if not revolutionized, by mobile.” In sum, mobile has changed the way we search, browse, watch, read, travel, and communicate. It has also changed the way we shop. M-Commerce, or mobile commerce, is a rapidly growing segment of eCommerce that reflects the “anytime, anywhere” buying habits of today’s consumer. Let’s take a look at the definition of m-commerce, how it’s growing and evolving, and what it means for B2B.

Defining M-Commerce: What Is It?

M-Commerce can be defined as the buying and selling of goods on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. Mobile Commerce can include:

  • Mobile retail on apps like Amazon and other traditional B2C eCommerce sites.
  • Mobile payments, or apps that provide mobile POS systems and other payment solutions.
  • On-demand services like Uber (ridesharing), Instacart (grocery delivery), Postmates (on-demand delivery), and others.

Many of these mobile applications are consumer-focused, but m-commerce is also moving into the B2B realm, which we’ll talk about in a minute. The mobile format presents certain challenges, including small screen size, technology constraints, security risks, and connectivity issues. The m-commerce companies taking on these challenges, however, are poised to capture an enormous opportunity.

The Rise of M-Commerce

While showrooming (the process of browsing and researching on a mobile device and then moving to a computer in order to complete the purchase) is still a common habit, m-commerce is on a path for enormous growth. According to a report by Digi-Capital, mobile commerce is projected to hit $700 billion in revenue by 2017. Brands are transforming and improving their mobile experiences, going from simply “mobile responsive” to “mobile first.” In other words, more and more businesses are designing native mobile apps for mobile shoppers, rather than simply providing a mobile version of their regular website. Apps like Uber are already proving how effective and lucrative these optimizations can be. As it becomes easier to shop on a smartphone or tablet, more purchases will be made on those devices. Likewise, companies will increasingly leverage the advantages of mobile commerce, like location information, context, and usage patterns in order to create personalized, fluid experiences.

B2B M-Commerce: What You Need to Know

While much of this post has talked about B2C m-commerce, m-commerce is set to also make an impact on B2B purchases. Indeed, B2B e-Commerce is already making a splash, with B2B buyers looking for “Amazon-like” experiences for their work purchases, according to Forrester. They are also seeking “omnichannel” experiences that allow them to purchase from multiple channels, including sales rep meetings, web eCommerce portals, and mobile eCommerce applications. Today, nearly three quarters of B2B customers are already using their smartphones to research B2B purchases. It is imperative for B2B companies to invest in a mobile future. According to this infographic by Usablenet, 56% of B2B buyers read reviews on mobile, 55% check out product information, 50% compare features, and 46% use mobile devices to search for and compare pricing. Like their consumer counterparts, B2B companies must design their m-commerce experiences specifically for mobile users--speed, intuitive navigation, and convenience are all key. They must also incorporate the needs of the B2B purchase process, including things like payment terms, shipping terms, and access to detailed product specs. Today, leveraging off-the-shelf, mobile-first eCommerce solutions can help companies develop their mobile go-to-market strategies with more ease and speed than custom app development, which may perhaps speed up this transition.

Concluding Thoughts

After much hype, M-commerce is finally coming into its own in 2015. Businesses are looking to refresh or revamp their mobile experiences in order to make mobile purchasing much more convenient, and more transactions are occurring on smartphones and tablets than ever before. As more people adopt m-commerce in their consumer lives, they are also demanding the same experiences in their professional lives, pushing B2B suppliers to implement m-commerce platforms of their own. The overall B2B eCommerce trend is maturing, and B2B m-commerce is following suit. Questions about m-commerce or B2B m-commerce specifically? Let us know in the comments.