insights | 06.03.2020

mCommerce and retail

Is mcommerce driving a resurgence in the physical retail store
Article topics
  1. What is mcommerce?
  2. eCommerce and physical retail: pros and cons.
  3. Mcommerce-the new normal.
  4. Mcommerce user experiences.
  5. Geofrencing.
  6. Mobile image recognition.
  7. Immersive experiences.
  8. Augmented reality.
  9. Personalisation.
  10. Final thought.

Since early in the 21st century eCommerce has been eroding physical retail, taking more of its market share year on year, resulting in the demise of some perennial high street brands and many independent stores.

Since early in the 21st century ecommerce has been eroding physical retail, taking more of its market share year on year, resulting in the demise of some perennial high street brands and many independent stores.

Receipt printed

What is mCommerce?

Mcommerce is ecommerce for mobile devices. In other words, it’s shopping on your phone. Shopping via phone is fast becoming the preferred way consumers purchase online. The evolution of retail from physical stores, to mail-order and telesales, to shopping online with PC, to mobile shopping is clear. Giving consumers fast, frictionless and unified shopping experiences via their phones is becoming a priority for many ecommerce businesses and brands. And many consumers, especially Gen Zs, are beginning to expect it.

t shirt in online checkout

eCommerce and physical retail: pros and cons.

Shopping online can be very convenient and is often cheaper than physical stores—given the overheads associated with brick-and-mortar—and with huge inventory to choose from consumers are rarely disappointed. Some products are better suited to online shopping than others, consumer electronics for example, just a few clicks from the comfort of their home at a time of their choosing can for many consumers make visiting a physical retail store seem redundant.

Some products are not well suited to online shopping. Buying clothing items online can be problematic because of sizing inconsistencies across brands and it’s difficult to gauge if an item of clothing will suit without trying it on. Some products need to be experienced to really know if they are right for the consumer, especially high-ticket items, such as some glasses frames and furniture or even cars. Buying makeup online can be problematic as well. And then if a product isn’t right, there’s the hassle of the returns process, assuming that’s an option—makeup can’t be returned at all (unless it’s faulty).

Physical retail might be more expensive, and the choice of stock smaller, but consumers can experience products in the real world: try on clothes and glasses frames, sit in sofas or test mattresses etc. Being able to take purchases home right away can have great value. Not having to wait for delivery is valuable. Returns are a lot easier in a physical store too.

Some ecommerce cons can dovetail with physical stores pros—what ecommerce doesn’t do so well, can be done well in-store: experiencing products, instant gratification and easier returns, for example. Given this, perhaps it makes good sense to merge the two, taking the best from ecommerce and the best from physical retail to create a unified shopping experience, marrying digital and real-world experiences.

person internet shopping on mobile

mCommerce—the new normal.

Consumers are using their phones to shop online more than ever before and across the globe mCommerce is growing. It’s growing faster than eCommerce in many territories. In Europe mCommerce is expected to account for over half of all eCommerce transactions in 2021, up from 34% in 2017.

The convenience that mCommerce affords is appealing to many consumers. The ease and speed of mobile shopping, and higher levels of personalisation, offer consumers more valuable shopping experiences. As mCommerce evolves, opportunities for retailers to create seamless and unified omnichannel shopping experiences are rich, an example is Amazon Go.

Amazon Go ‘just walk out’ technology enables consumers to shop at physical grocery stores with their mobile phones using their existing Amazon account. This new technology creates an omnichannel shopping experience and is perhaps the shape of things to come for major retailers, with a trickle down to medium and independent retailers as the tech becomes more accessible, seeing traditionally ecommerce retailers enticing consumers into physical stores.

target with two successful shots

mCommerce user experiences.

mCommerce user experience (UX) differs from general eCommerce website UX in the sense that mCommerce UX design must first and foremost consider phones’ smaller screen sizes. This is why eCommerce developers design dynamic websites that can detect what device they are being used on and deploy accordingly. Many eCommerce designers and developers work with a ‘mobile first’ ethos, meaning that the consumer mobile experience is the starting point of eCommerce website design.

Mobile screen layout design is different from PC and laptop. It has to be, and not just because of the smaller screen. The situations in which phones are used to make purchases means that often websites don’t have the consumer’s full attention—they might be shopping on public transport, in a cafe or any public place. The opportunity for distraction is much higher than shopping online at home, so designers must make UX as clear, fast and frictionless as possible. Clear signposting and calls-to-action help guide mCommerce shoppers through their journeys: animated time indicators to prevent multiple taps or swipes, reduced keystrokes and large well labelled buttons.

The fact that phones are carried with consumers all of the time, and that their devices have the ability to scan, have cameras as well as high-G connectivity, opens up a different set of considerations for UX designers compared to PC, laptop and even tablet.

pin on map


Geofencing is a technology that creates virtual boundaries around physical geographical areas. mCommerce marketers know the value that geofencing can bring, in terms of attracting consumers into physical stores.

An app can obtain consent to access consumer locations as part of an SMS campaign and then use geofencing to send location-relevant notifications and messages when consumers enter the geofenced area in a shopping mall, city or town centre or other retail environment.

Geofencing can be used to offer consumers in the vicinity of a physical store incentives to visit that store, such as money off, multi-buys or other deals or promotions. The exclusivity of these offers, along with a personalised message, can drive consumers in the area to that store.

person sat down internet shopping on mobile

Mobile image recognition.

In mCommerce, mobile image recognition (MIR) technologies use deep learning AI to identify products. If a consumer sees an item that they like, a pair of shoes for example, MIR enables them to use their phone, via an app, to capture an image of the product and find a retailer that sells it, both online and physical store in the area.

Advance scan-to-shop mcommerce technologies satisfy the instant gratification expectation of many consumers. With seemingly ever-diminishing consumer attention spans, MIR can significantly reduce friction in mcommerce UX.

mobile recognition device

Augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) is on the rise. The potential for AR to enhance and personalise shopping experiences is huge with 40% of consumers saying that they would pay more for a product if they could experience it through AR while browsing. This could be an instore or online experience, trying out products such as clothing, glasses frames or home furnishings prior to purchase.

By ‘trying things on’ or being able to see how products will look in situations enhances the shopping experience. Ikea has an AR app that enables consumers to see furniture in their own house or apartment, rather than having to imagine how a couch, table or lamp may or may not work in a particular room.

Clothes shopping offers a great opportunity for brands to take advantage of AR. For example, friction can be greatly reduced in-store when shoe shopping. Consumers use their AR app to ‘try on’ shoes without the hassle of having to find an assistant and go through a time-consuming physical try on.

In-store smart mirror virtual fitting rooms offer the same experience as AR apps. Consumers are able to see what clothes look like without having to spend valuable shopping time trying them on in busy store changing rooms, or they can compare makeup by experiencing what it looks like when applied without having to apply it.

Research shows that 84% of consumers believe the experience is just as important as the product itself.

augmented reality device


Retailers can use AR experiences to engage more consumers by profiling preferences, targeted marketing and making product suggestions. For example, when consumers are actively engaged with a virtual fitting room, an AI shopping assistant could offer guidance, suggesting related items based on current product interest and purchase history, informing the consumer about special offers or guiding them to items in the store.

This idea can be extended to create individual targeted discounts when the AI assistant sees that a consumer has spent a long time viewing a product in AR. Or the AI assistant might customise a message to a group of users that shared an AR experience on social media. Mcommerce can be used to create personal shopping profiles for greater personalisation and more valuable shopping experiences online and in the physical world, or perhaps more accurately in a third, ‘hyper-retail’ space that blurs the line between online and real-world shopping.

Final thought

The growth in ‘brick-and-mobile’ shopping is ultimately good for consumers and for brands. The key is blending and synchronising offline and online shopping experiences. For many retailers, going omnichannel is prohibitive due to cost and disruption to their established business model. But as consumer demand increases for brick-and-mobile experiences, brands will ultimately be compelled to follow in some way, if not implementing all that omnichannel has to offer, then using some elements of it to enhance consumer experiences.

Consumers want it all, (and why shouldn’t they?) to be able to shop where they choose, how they choose and when they choose. It’s this powershift towards the consumer that is driving brands back to physical stores. Gen Z is the first generation to grow up not knowing a world without the mobile phone, the internet and social media. This brings with it a different consumer attitude that larger brands and retailers are embracing. The rise of mCommerce and brick-and-mobile shopping is changing the retail landscape to better suit a new type of consumer.

Are you thinking about embracing omnichannel? Do you want to create a single source of truth to enable the siloed eCommerce and brick-and-mortar parts of your business to become one? Contact one of our eCommerce specialists for a chat today and find out how we can help your business evolve.

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