Mobile breaks through purchase barrier capping ‘decade of the smartphone’

Handsets now generate more than half of ecommerce sales, finds Wolfgang Digital

Wolfgang Digital chief executive Alan Coleman: ‘We can only imagine what the future holds.’

Wolfgang Digital chief executive Alan Coleman: ‘We can only imagine what the future holds.’


Purchases on smartphones now make up more than half of ecommerce revenues, according to a new study by Wolfgang Digital.

Mobiles have shaken off their reputation as primarily a research tool for shoppers, with consumers now accustomed to buying through smaller devices rather than merely browsing on them, the Dublin-based marketing company found.

Some 54 per cent of the ecommerce sales racked up by retail and travel brands originated from mobile rather than from desktop or tablet devices last year, capping the “decade of the smartphone”, it said.

This was the first year in which the mobile segment of the market generated the majority of ecommerce revenues, though a trace of reluctance remains, with mobile’s share of revenues lagging its 70 per cent chunk of ecommerce traffic. This is because consumers still tend to turn to desktop devices to buy big-ticket items.

Wolfgang analysed more than 130 million website sessions and more than €330 million in online revenue over the year from November 2018 to October 2019 for its report. In a similar study in 2016, mobile was estimated to generate only a “meagre” 21 per cent of ecommerce revenue, despite accounting for 42 per cent of ecommerce traffic at that point.

‘Element of saturation’

Paid search ads – whereby the advertiser will appear at the top of Google or other search engines’ first results page for particular keywords – have also overtaken organic search results as the top driver of revenues, Wolfgang said.

While social media was found by the company to generate just 4 per cent of ecommerce revenues, it is the fastest-growing driver of ecommerce sales.

“There’s an element of saturation with paid search now,” said Wolfgang Digital chief executive Alan Coleman. The trick is to “out-market the competition” through online PR, display advertising and by buying search terms related to the “top of the funnel” (or near the start of a purchasing journey).

“If you’re selling designer dresses, the search term ‘dresses to wear to a wedding’ is highly relevant to you. It will deliver a lot of traffic, but it won’t get too many conversions to sales, so some websites might exclude it on this basis,” Mr Coleman said.

Average sessions

“Our message is that this is a trick marketers are missing. Anything you can do that increases the average number of sessions per visitor will build up trust and lead to higher conversions.”

As well as a correlation between the best-performing websites and those that have a higher average number of sessions per user, Wolfgang’s study identified a link between the best ecommerce performers and those that “know what to do” on social media platforms, especially Facebook.

Voice commands only represented a tiny fraction of the searches that led to paid ads last year, the report also concluded.

“The majority of voice searches are still informational rather than commercial,” Mr Coleman said. “They’re ‘what’s the weather like in Milan today?’ rather than ‘what’s the best four-star hotel in Milan?’ We’re not there yet.”

The next 10 years – the decade of 5G connectivity – will likely have radical consequences for marketers, Mr Coleman added.

“We can only imagine what the future holds.”