This past week a statistic was released that indicated that over 50% of all cellphone usage in the US were smartphones. In addition to that, about 9% of all web traffic is now from mobile devices, yet according to one survey of 7,000 websites, only 4.8% of them were mobile-ready (in terms of e-commerce).
This is not insignificant, as some $5.3B of mobile commerce took place in 2011 (here’s a PDF of an Adobe mobility study quoting a Barclay’s Capital statistic). In an age where tablets are considered a mobile device, the lines become blurred and will only get worse as newer devices, OS’s, browser-types and app-specific platforms add to that mix.
But what about customer behavior – in particular, laboratory researcher behavior? One thing to remember is that our customer base is in many ways just like any other in terms of human behavior, overlaid with some specifics about that base (i.e. a higher need for comparative information, since it is a highly differentiated ‘high-tech’ product), and a fair amount of price sensitivity (yet differentiating and unique features can easily command a price premium). But in other dimensions, researchers are very similar to ordinary e-commerce customers: a need for easy navigation, a shopping cart feature, easy payment methods (you’d be surprised how many scientists are issued institutional credit cards for purchases less than a few thousand dollars, and how many of those purchases for everyday laboratory items there are in the aggregate).
Which gets back to the overall trend: mobile is growing fast, and technology is adopted faster than ever. Here’s a NYT infographic from way back in 2008; the first chart is a bit confusing, but breaks out the type of consumption against three different buckets of income (lowest, middle and top ‘fifths’). The bottom figure is the one that’s interesting – the rapid pace of technology adoption, in particular how long it took to reach 50% of US households. Electricity? From 1907 to 1923 – a full 16 years to reach 50% of households. The greatest invention of the industrial revolution, the washing machine? From 1925 to 1965, or 40 years! (By the term ‘greatest invention’, please refer to this TED talk that will open your eyes to how great we have it with the washing machine. Amazing this technology that about 85% of households have now.) (Hmm, I must assume that the remaining 15% use coin-operated laundry, and a fraction of a percent do it still by hand, but I’ll need to do more research on that last bit.)
This trend toward mobile is not lost on the major tech companies: Instagram acquired by Facebook for $1B, Google acquires 1000’s of mobile patents, Google acquires Motorola for $12B (and their patent portfolio), you get the idea.
The trend toward mobile is clear, the trend toward mobile payments and mobile commerce is clear, and websites that aim to sell to customers lag behind. Where is your company’s website along this trend? Are preparations and plans being made now?
There are many technological pitfalls here, such as sending Flash to a mobile device regardless of whether it runs iOS, or fixing frame sizes so that when a mobile browser access an html page it becomes useless. This little blog (yes I see the statistics and perhaps need to refer more ‘friends and family’ to take a look at it) has no less than 17% accessing these word on a mobile device. (Shameless plug: do feel free to refer your friends and family to this site!) At the beginning I deliberately chose a WordPress theme that would accommodate mobile devices without any ‘work’ on my part, and I expect that number to only grow as time goes on.
Last weekend I took the boys on a hike, and the family we were in a caravan with went the wrong direction. So there we were, on the side of the road near the Potomac River, the three of us (myself and the couple I was with) all furiously typing away on our smartphones. In less than a minute we were on our way. I didn’t purchase a map at that point, but the http://nps.gov website sure was helpful, and mobile-friendly too.