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Mobile Commerce 2021: What to Expect

November 6, 2020

What's next for mobile commerce in a world transformed by COVID-19? What new expectations do customers have and how can brands be prepared? Bill Bloom, founder and CEO of the mobile market research firm Fast Focus, shares insights on the mobile commerce trends that he and his firm are watching for in 2021 and beyond.

Key Takeaways:

  • Mobile commerce is on track to account for more than half of all e-commerce transactions by early 2021
  • Video-enabled behavioral analytics is on the rise as companies look for more ways to better understand their customers
  • 3D objects designed for mobile are poised to make a splash as retailers look to differentiate themselves


Judith Aquino: Hi, welcome to the CX Pod. I'm Judith Aquino. On today's episode, we'll be talking about mobile commerce trends and what to expect next. Joining me in this discussion is Bill Bloom, founder and CEO of the mobile market research firm Fast focus. Welcome to the show, Bill.

Bill Bloom: I am thrilled to be here. Thanks for having me.

JA: So let's start by talking about some broad trends. What changes have you seen in consumer mobile behavior since the pandemic started?

BB: Well, actually we saw a lot of changes going up to the pandemic. As everyone knows, more and more folks are engaging online with e-commerce through their mobile devices. And we predicted a rise from about 16% to about 25% of all transactions, commercial transactions, being made through Amazon and other e-tailers. And we actually see that accelerating. And on the mobile side what's happening because of demographics and because everyone's becoming more mobile centric, certainly Gen Z, millennials even up to the Boomers, because everyone is now shopping almost exclusively online, about 70%, still an 80% at the height of the pandemic everyone is online, becoming more versatile on how to shop online. But on the mobile side, it's increasing fast and we're seeing pretty soon half of all commerce transactions online will be through mobile devices. And we think that'll be by Q1 Q2, 2021.

JA: Right? So mobile will finally eclipse e-commerce.

BB: I think mobile e-commerce will reach and exceed their projections that sometime in mid-2021, 54% of e-commerce will be done on mobile. And one of the critical things about that is brands who are selling on Amazon and through e-commerce have optimized their messaging and their packaging and their images where they say packaging hero images, for desktop, because that's where it's been and most brands have lagged way behind on mobile. So the really big opportunity out there is for brands to get ahead of the curve and start looking at how to optimize the experience for their mobile consumers. As of the end of 2019 studies have found about 12% of mobile e-commerce shopping was really optimized for mobile.

JA: And what effect has the entrance of all these first-time mobile shoppers had on brands' marketing strategies? I mean, is it enough just to create something that's mobile responsive or are they doing more to engage these, I guess a wider variety of customers?

BB: Yeah, well, brands giving guidelines for, you know, mobile shoppers. The guidelines being, use images to visualize the benefits, right? Or add a smile to increase sales or large images show you off better, white backgrounds make everything easier to see, you know, on your mobile device because you have to make the visual particular to the device. But what we're finding is that those are really general guidelines. I mean, if, if you're saying, make the images larger, what's the optimal large size, right. So what happens a couple of years ago is Unilever and Cambridge University started to really turn this more into a science and they have five levels of optimization that kind of ranked the mobile experience. And you know, what they found is that's again, a very good hypothesis, but what companies really need to start doing is learn what works online, which is, you know, trial and error experimentation, and the analytics, like if we make these changes, what will happen.

BB: And because digital is so fluid and because you don't have to print anything, you can make changes pretty fast. So from a market research standpoint, you really need to be able to test, you know, both, you know, the experiences that are online already, but also predict like you do with any type of market research for anything before you spend the money. And creating images and messaging and branding, you know, test that. And you know, our tool Fast Focus was really made for that, you know, because we emulated the e-commerce or actually m-commerce experience so that you could test it as if you were shopping all the way from using virtual currency, using the imagery, the hero images and the messaging, and using competing creative and see what happens.

But the big thing we're seeing is companies need to really start understanding the medium and then figuring out how to quickly test you know, in the time that we're in right now the COVID piece of it has changed a lot because companies are looking at sentiment, not in months or quarters or years. They're looking at it in weeks. You know, when COVID first hit, everyone was looking at, you know, what are people buying now? You know they're buying disinfect and toilet paper, but as we go through it that's been changing on a weekly basis. So they really need to think about agile, fast, predictive ways to see where the market's going.

JA: And can you elaborate on that in terms of the research trends that companies are really starting to prioritize now that as you mentioned, where we're in a climate that changes so quickly?

BB: Right. Well, you know, I could talk to our solutions, but in general, you have to engage people faster, right? You can't do long, deep surveys and, and long, deep studies, you have to be very quick. And it has to be digital, obviously. I won't go naming names, but there are a bunch of companies that have come to us who did, you know, face-to-face focus groups, you know, follow the shopper around the store type of stuff. You can't do that anymore. At least for the near future. So the trends, you know, if you're doing surveys and studies, you have to be very quick and agile about them. And we really believe the most effective tools out there are behavioral right now. A big part of that is that the demographic of who the shoppers are, millennials and Gen Z, don't have the time and patience.

And we believe that if you use behavioral tools, you know, figuring out what they would do and watching them do it you could get a lot quicker insights that correlate faster with what they would actually do. So the biggest thing we're seeing is tools that are more behavioral and more agile tools…essentially, you know, if you look at companies that capture video verbatim that's becoming more and more important because you can't really, you know, interact directly with customers face to face.

And there's a lot you might lose if you're just asking them survey questions, or even in the case of Fast Focus, watching them, you know to invest currency in the products they think will do the best. So, certainly brands want to see faces, they want to see nuances. They want to get more of an in-person touch feel for what the customers is thinking and doing. So videos become very important.

JA: Hmm. And are you also seeing any, a cross between metrics that other departments might use, I'm thinking customer effort score or NPS. I mean, those are two very popular metrics on the customer service side. Are those crossing over also towards the marketer?

BB: It's interesting because we've spent a bunch of time in the past couple of months looking at NPS and looking at a score that we've been developing called the Passion Score, and NPS has always been important, right. And a lot of companies really depend on it. But NPS is not a predictive score, right. It's really, the customer has made the purchase and you're trying to figure out, you know, will they refer it to a friend? So I think in terms of the types of complimentary metrics that people are looking for are predictive metrics again, because things are changing so fast, if you capture what you know, someone at this moment in time would refer it and you could gather some additional questions and information at that point too.

But I see again, going back to the predictive measures and because of the speed, things are changing and using that in combination with NPS. So we're developing for instance, using our Passion Score, which is predictive of purchase intent, right? How many, we're looking at an algorithm that looks at, if we give you these eight items; we just did something for dog treats, right? To sell dog treats online, via mobile and via the desktop. And it was showing the packaging of, of six different brands. And it was asking customers which one they would buy, and predicting it. So we do that on a monthly basis for this company.

So it becomes like a brand tracker where they could get the impression of their packaging, which they could change fast. And we learned some things very quickly about what's important. What's better about that packaging. And as we've seen that month to month, what's changed, what's important, you know, about that packaging and what elements and what images of that packaging. So,NPS, you know, I'm a little bit biased cause I, I think I'm in the camp of, it's not a be-all end-all. It's proven to be good at some high level, observations, but it doesn't really predict the future as well as it needs to.

JA: And what do companies need in order to get the best outcomes or the best results from using predictive analytics? Are there a key set of things that they need to have in place?

BB: Well, I think they have to have a good idea for the answers they're looking for. In our case, you know, it's very important how you present the stimulus and in our behavioral tool, what's important is one, like I said, you have to know what the outcome you want to look for. What are you looking for here? And you need to present it in the most pure way, right? In addition more and more, and I was just came out of another meeting on this, you have to be very careful about how you recruit, right? So if you're looking to predict, you know, what's going to happen next month or next week, just like any study, you have to make sure that you have a good blend.

And we were talking about on my last call you know, are you going to use online panels, online communities? Are you going to target people on Facebook or Twitter or you know, other mediums like Instagram and it's becoming more and more apparent that you have to be much more diverse and specific about that. And, and in the case of our tool, what it's behavioral, you actually have to factor in like the get the respondents that you can intuit will be, or you can determine hopefully what will be the best to go into these behavioral type studies and not limited to a dynamic panel or a Facebook group, but have diversity.

JA: And I wanted to go back to what you mentioned about how companies are looking to measure sentiment on now a week by week basis. Could you tell me more about what does that entail and how to jump from that to a day by day or hourly basis?

BB: Right. Well, again, I'm going to have to refer to our tool. So when we built the tool, we built it to be gamified and we built it so that the entire session is anywhere between three and five minutes. So it's not a big lift for, let's say customer communities. And, and that's becoming more and more important. You have to have, it has to be, has to be something in it for the, for the respondent. Right. And one of the things that make it easier is to make it shorter because the shorter it is. And if you make it a little bit of fun in our case, you know, we're using Tinder like swiping to add the currency, right. And, and once you add the currency to the ideas, you basically spend a couple of minutes with verbatim feedback.

BB: So we've made it really easy, a little bit fun. I'm not saying it's a game, but it's gamified. And that's it. Once you get there, if you can get the engagement of your audience and it's the right audience, and it takes them a few minutes, which means they may not mind doing it once a week, or they may not mind doing it twice a week, every day. I don't know. But you know, it has to be easy. It has to be a little fun and there has to be something in it. So in addition to make it easier and fun and short, you know, the rewards always count for something, but I really believe the rewards have to be intrinsic or at least most of it for you to get good results. Because if you're just depending on, you know, $5 or something else to encourage someone to give you know, insights you may, you may not get what you need.

JA: And are you tying the data from the feedback surveys, with insights that could be collected I guess passively or by tracking user behavior.

BB: We are right now, the only amplification let's say of what we do is we have built in the ability for survey companies to capture survey information via you know, with, with Fast Focus. So we can embed Fast Focus into a Qualtrics survey or, or other survey tools. Other behavioral, the only extension we've made is to work with Voxpopme where we're capturing the video verbatim as opposed to a text or tapping it in. So we haven't extended beyond that right now, but that's a lot. So you could create a, let's say a survey that has 20 questions, and we have found that because of the type of the way that we capture data, these surveys in many cases can be reduced by 50 or 70% in scope. So if you have a 20 question survey you may be able to cut it down to six, eight, 10 questions with the Fast Focus study, being embedded to make up the difference. And that helps a lot because you're asking questions with the behavioral questions, which are a great mix.

JA: And especially now, when it seems there's so much survey fatigue, that's interesting that it continues to be optimized. So to recap, it sounds like for one thing, mobile commerce is definitely accelerating and companies are becoming more data-driven. Are there any particular trends that you're watching or keeping an eye on for 2021 for mobile commerce or research trends?

BB: I I'd say the most interesting trend and, something where it's on our roadmap, on mobile e-commerce and in e-commerce in general is certainly 3D objects. And again, that bridges the gap between the tactile I'm in a store, right? So Nike is already starting to do this on Amazon, and I believe some other platforms where you can load up a 3D object and spin it, right. So you could look at the Nike, the bottom, the top, the sides, just like you're in the store. And we think that's important for everything, even cereal boxes. You know, if you're thinking about kids' cereal, for instance, you know, kids like the beautiful, you know, cartoon characters on the front. The parents like how much sugar and any nutritional value is in it, and everyone likes to pick it up and kind of spin it around.

BB: So we beta tested that and we have that ready to go. We haven't implemented it yet because you know, companies are not ready; you have to produce those assets in 3D. So the only thing holding that back is, is 3D. I'd say the other thing, which I'm going out there a little bit in terms of time is augmented reality, so that if you're in in a store and you can get a lot more information on your phone by seeing information on your phone by pointing it at the box or the container or whatever else, the interesting question about that will be, how do we, how do we build market research into that? And it might, when going back to stores might be a great opportunity, but that's definitely an in-store experience, but 3D is I think the biggest trend coming up for market research for the mobile experience.

JA: That's really interesting. And it sounds like this could also be the return of the QR code.

BB: That's right. In the store, you can get a lot of information from a QR code. Right. And you could get it, you know, on your mobile phone also when you're shopping. So, yeah, absolutely.

JA: Right. Well, Bill, thanks so much for speaking with me. I really enjoyed our conversation.

BB: So did I thank you so much for having me.