Is the timing right for Mobile Commerce?

Today, more than 2.2 billion people connect to the internet from a mobile phone. This number is expected to double by 2020. As a frame of reference, Android is now the most popular Operating System globally and in 2016 more installations of Apple’s iOS 10 were installed than Microsoft’s Windows. It is a mobile world. But there is one problem: do consumers buy from their phones?

A year ago, I would have said a resounding “no”. The facts bore out the statement: people browsed on their phones but did not buy. The perfect storm of technologies had to be put in place to ensure that Mobile Commerce can happen.

That perfect storm has happened. Black Friday for 2016 saw the largest number of online purchases: over $3 Billion. The staggering element to this story is that Mobile accounted for ⅓ of all Black Friday purchases. Yes, that is right, people are buying with their phones.

For Mobile Commerce to be effective and to happen three things needed to be in place:

  1. Everyone has to have a smartphone. Everyone. This is the foundation.
  2. Check out technologies need to be easier on the phone than on the PC. Check out Apple Pay, Amazon, and AliPay and you will see that they are all very easy to use. One swipe and you buy your products.
  3. Social is a key part of buying. Adding in effective social selling and you have a gold mine of opportunity waiting to happen

Expect 2017 to be a breakout year for Mobile Commerce. mCommerce is already a reality in many Asian countries. It will be in the USA, too.

31% of all online sales are now from Mobile devices

Mobiles sales are on a tear. The 2016 Holiday season saw more than $24 Billion in sales from mobile devices from Nov 1 through Dec 20. This is an incredible number as it accounts for 31% of the $79 Billion spent online. In other words, 1:3 people now buy from a phone vs. a PC. The data is from Adobe’s report that tracks sales for the top 100 online retailers (link).

Key data points include:

  • Total Online Sales: $79.2B
  • Total Online Sales Growth: 10.7%
  • 49 out of 50 days have resulted in over $1B in revenue
  • Desktop Share of Sales: 69%
  • Smartphone Share of Sales: 21%
  • Tablet Share of Sales: 10% 

What is stunning is that Mobile accounted for 28% of online sales in 2015 and only 19% in 2014. The trajectory is clear: Mobile will likely hit 33% of online sales in 2017 and 35+% in 2018. 

The Challenge for Online Sales

The challenge for retailers is now complicated. On the one hand, you must continue to support traditional PC commerce, but on the contrary, you must also support the emerging trend for mobile commerce. An interesting data point missing from Adobe’s report is the number of sales driven by platforms such as social business. While social commerce, a new channel where the consumer buys from a chat app such as Facebook Messenger, is new to the USA, countries such as China are now masters of social buying. 

Digital Commerce Fragmentation will likely be the buzz words that describe online sales over the next few years. How do you plan to address this thorny issue?

Are you ready for Behavior Driven Design?

Behavior Drives When We Use Devices

Should behavior change how we develop the digital tools we use everyday. Consider the following, my typical day:

This morning my phone woke me up. I reached over and turned off the alarm (it plays the Mission Impossible Theme song – setting the alarm seems so funny each night, but not so much in the morning). I glanced at the notifications. Lots. Shit. My brain is now thinking and I better get up. Twenty minutes later I am in the car. My phone is playing my favorite radio station from London (I’m a Brit living in the USA, but I got to have my UK radio stations). I get to work, power up my laptop and tackle Excel and PowerPoint – Xcode I have my eyes on you, too! Noon comes. Meet some friends to grab a bite to eat and watch highlights from the World Cup on James’ tablet sized phone (seriously, you make calls with that thing??). Back to work, to my number crunching and off home. That evening I sit in from of the TV. My wife is sitting next to me with her tablet. I go to bed and set Mission Impossible for my alarm – that will be hilarious in the morning!

Sound like a familiar routine? Maybe you do not have the Mission Impossible ring tone waking you up, but you do use multiple devices throughout the day. The cost of a phone and tablet is now so low that the key barrier to entry– namely, PRICE – is effectively gone. The PC maybe not so much, so we let the company buy it. Problem solved. What we have, today, is a collection of different devices – phones, phablets, tablets, laptops – that we juggle our email and work around.

To this end, I believe we need to determine behavior before a single line of code or your draw a wire frame. Behavior is now King.

The above chart shows how we typically use different devices. Form factor, portability and screen size all play parts into why we choose to use different devices at different times.

Today, we have three main devices – phone, tablet, PC – but the signs are clear that we will have many more devices. Add to the list: smart car, smart TV, smart watches, smart house, smart health devices, smart…. You get the picture. One app will NOT work successfully across all devices.

Behavior is now the key metric. Think about the apps you use today. How will they change as the tools you use each day adapt to your behavior? Take my daily routine, these are the changes I expect to see:

  • My Android watch alarm wakes me up
  • My iCar has an app for my favorite radio station
  • My Laptop crunches Excel
  • A phablet sized phone to watch video with friends
  • I use my phone during the day to catch up on email and news
  • My watch tells me when to get to the next meeting
  • At home, my TV is linked to my wife’s tablet to send extra information about the show we are watching

We are surrounding ourselves with different screens that have different tasks. All are computers. All will be cheap. Get ready for behavior driven design.

5 Techniques for your Mobile Web Site

There are lots of different ways to build mobile web sites. What I have pulled together is a collection of techniques that our teams use to allow your web site to look awesome on mobile devices. This is important due to the rapidly increasing demand for web sites optimized for the growing number of wireless devices.

The Mobile Web is a Many Screen World

The mobile web is not just Smartphones like iPhone and Android phones. The mobile web is anything that can connect to a web site. The term “mobile web” is now a reference term for multi-screen solutions. This means that Tablets, Laptops and even TVs are part of the mobile web. If it has a screen, it is likely it has a Web browser and will view your site.

Your Web site analytics are showing you how many different devices are connecting to your Web site. Google will breakdown PC and Mobile. Dig into the Mobile analytics and you will see all of the different screens (phones, phablets, tablets, etc.).

Mobile Web is for Every Device

Mobile Web Templates for Content Management Service

Many of us use CMS (Content Management Service) solutions to deliver content to Web sites. This will likely come as no surprise, but many of the leading Web CMS solutions now have templates that will deploy a mobile web template to ensure that the correct experience is deployed to a device.

WordPress, a tool used by many Web sites, has two ways of managing Mobile content. The first is through Plugins. The popular WordPress Jetpack plugin has a “Mobile Theme” that only requires you to activate the theme and your site will re-structure the content for phones and tablets. The second method is to implement a responsive theme. The goal of a responsive theme is to ensure that your site looks awesome for any screen. Check as an example of a responsive WordPress template in action.

Responsive Design for Mobile Web

A big trend is the adaption of Responsive Design. The goal of a responsive site is to create one web page that will dynamically resize to the device and screen size viewing the content. Check out as a good example of responsive design.

The biggest challenge for Responsive Design is a lack of design tools. Adobe, as you might expect, has two tools you can use: EDGE Reflow and Dreamweaver CC. Both tools will give you the capability to create Responsive designs for your Web site without having to write code.

The many screen of the mobile web

Leveraging Mobile Web Frameworks

Sometimes you need to go the functions of a template or tool and need to edit the code. Fortunately there are some great frameworks you can leverage to accelerate the deployment of your mobile web site. Here is a selection of frameworks you can use (it is not complete and I encourage you to share any additional frameworks in the comments below):

Working in the details

The goal of a framework is to get you up and running very quickly. But, there are times when you need to get down into the details of a specific mobile web browser (I’m looking at you, Mobile Safari).

One area that receives a lot of focus is creating Retina (high-definition) images. A good library to use to manage retina images in your code is Retina.js ().

A great list of the changes in iOS7 for Mobile Safari is here:

Please add any techniques you use in the comments below.

The impact of a Free Windows OS

Microsoft is now offering Windows 8 free on tablets and phones smaller than 9 inches in size – the impact is that all operating systems can now be judged on their features and not price.

Microsoft Windows 8 is now Free for devices smaller than 9 inches

Microsoft made its money from selling an OS. This was great in the ’80s, ’90s and ’00s. Even the early ‘teens of the 21st century were good to Microsoft. Then a lot changed almost over night:

  • Apple started to give away updates to their mobile iOS for iPhones and Tablets
  • Google Android got REALLY big – and Android is FREE
  • Google released a competing desktop operating system, Chrome OS, for entry-level laptops – yep, it’s FREE
  • Ubuntu, a Linux OS, is now the official OS for China
  • FireFox OS for mobile devices is FREE
  • Samsung is releasing Tizen, a mobile OS, for devices and phones for FREE
  • Apple is now making all future updates for OS X FREE – including upgrading your desktop from OS Lion

It is hard to sell an Operating System when there are so many free alternatives for consumers to choose from. The biggest challenge for Microsoft is that their flagship OS is now being compared feature to feature with other operating systems. The magic word – FREE – has a big impact. Now you will see the price of smaller laptops, tablets and phones fall into parity with price of Android devices. The Windows devices will no longer have the “windows tax” that paying for an operating system causes. The consumer is seeing the investment as the hardware, not the software.

There is not an immediate upset to the market, but longer impact over the next 3-5 years is significant. Windows, unlike Tizen, Ubuntu and Chrome OS has something the others do not have: decades long experience in developing a consumer product in use by hundred of millions of people. This creates brand loyalty. In many ways, giving Windows away will be the boost Microsoft needs to migrate consumers onto the growing number of Windows Services, such as Office 365. How this shapes out in the future will be interesting to watch. I fully expect to see a world with the following distribution of Operating Systems:

  • 60% Google’s Android
  • 20% Apple’s iOS/OS X
  • 15% Microsoft Windows
  • 5% Mixed bag of everything else

The bottom line: Microsoft is back in the game.

The History of Android

Android is, without doubt, a massive success. Each day Google records more than a million activations of new Android devices; Android powers close to 80% of the world’s Smartphones and more than a million apps are available for Android through stores such as Google Play and Amazon App Store.

Android Logo

So, how did we get here? Good question. Fortunately, the folks over at have pulled together an awesome infographic you can view that shows the whole story from start to finish. Here are some highlights. First, how did it all get started:

How Android Got Started

Many believe Android stole a lot of its ideas from Apple. Not true. Android existed before iOS. The problem for Andy Rubin, the lead for the Android program, is that iOS was released to the press first. Rubin’s reaction to Steve Jobs iPhone reveal was “we are going to have to start over.”

Android – the beginning years

While Android 1.0 was a commercial product, it was not until Cupcake (1.5), Donut (1.6) and Eclair (2.0) came out that you started to see interest from handset manufacturers and telcos. At the time, Apple’s iPhone had almost zero competition and a competing product was essential for companies such as HTC, LG and Samsung. Android is that competing product.

Android – Froyo and Gingerbread

In many ways, Froyo (2.2) and Gingerbread (2.3) are for Android what Windows XP is for Microsoft: good enough. This translates to carriers and manufacturers not upgrading the OS. For many years, most of my Android work used 2.2 as the baseline and even today close to 20% of all active handsets are running Gingerbread. Amazon’s branched version of Android, Fire OS, uses Froyo as the base.

Following Gingerbread is Honeycomb (3.0). The focus for Honeycomb is tablets. The iPad had just come out and Apple’s iOS optimized the larger screen size. This meant that Google needed to adapt Android for Tablets. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well. Few people bought the early Android tablets.


Android – Version 4.0+

In many ways, it is the release of Ice Cream Sandwich, the first of the 4.x Android versions, that have catapulted the success of Android. Most phones now come with either Jelly Bean or Ice Cream Sandwich. This is great news for developers.

Android Version Market Share

It is still not easy for Android. Fragmentation remains a big problem. Some estimates are putting the Android Universe at close to 3,000 variants. Google knows this and it is clear that they are moving towards a distribution model that avoids this problem. There is also increased competition from other free mobile operating systems such as Tizen, Ubuntu and Jolla. With that said, Android will continue to dominate and Google is adding great tools that make it easier for developers to build apps and for consumers to discover them.

The history of Android Infographic