Mobile commerce is critical to Internet retailing’s future

U.S. m-commerce sales on tablets are soaring while the influence of smartphones on purchases grows, new data from research firm eMarketer show. By 2018, purchases on tablets and mobile phones will account for 27% of all online sales, or $133 billion.

Bill Siwicki

Mobile commerce is no longer a nifty sideshow—it’s a web retailing fundamental that’s becoming increasingly critical to the future of e-commerce, new data from research firm eMarketer show.

U.S. retail mobile commerce sales (on smartphones and tablets, including sales of digital goods but excluding sales of travel services and event and movie tickets) will soar from $42.13 billion in 2013 (16.0% of total web sales of $263.31 billion) to $132.69 billion in 2018 (27.0% of $491.44 billion), eMarketer says.

Mobile commerce can be looked at broadly and narrowly, says Yoram Wurmser, retail and e-commerce analyst at eMarketer.

“In the narrow sense of capturing sales, tablets will make up the bulk of new sales and will widen an already big lead over smartphones,” Wurmser says. “In 2014, eMarketer expects $38.02 billion in sales on tablets compared to $18.49 billion on smartphones; this already exceeds a 2-to-1 ratio. By 2018, 72.6% of m-commerce will take place on tablets, totaling $96.31 billion. We project that commerce via smartphones will also increase quickly, but not as quickly, reaching $34.63 billion in 2018. Overall, U.S. tablet penetration will rise from 46.2% of the population in 2014 to 52.1% in 2018.”

Looking at mobile commerce in a broader sense, smartphones are more pervasive than tablets among today’s online and in-store shoppers, Wurmser says.

“In 2014, 124.8 million U.S.consumers will shop on a smartphone, representing 63.5% of digital shoppers, according to our forecast,” he says. “By 2018, we project there will be 181.5 million smartphone shoppers, representing 84.4% of digital shoppers. While there are fewer tablet shoppers in the U.S., more tablet shoppers end up buying, and transaction volume is typically lower on smartphones than it is on tablets, which accounts for the difference in m-commerce sales between the two devices.”

But mobile commerce is about more than just sales made on smartphones and tablets. It’s also about how consumers use smartphones and tablets to assist with purchases ultimately made online on a PC or in-store.

“Mobile is very important not only in context with direct sales via mobile devices, but also working in conjunction with other channels,” Wurmser says. “A good portion of m-commerce growth is coming from tablets, but smartphones are highly influencing the shopping process, both online and in-store. Also keep in mind that eMarketer’s 2018 projection that mobile will account for 27% of total e-commerce sales is calculated off a much higher base of total e-commerce sales, which will continue to grow at an annual clip above 10% for the foreseeable future. So both e-commerce and m-commerce are growing quite significantly.”

Following are eMarketer’s new projections for mobile commerce in the years ahead, including year, mobile sales in billions, percent growth, and percent of total web sales:

Worldwide, mobile commerce sales will account for almost half of total web sales by 2018, according to international investment bank The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. That’s in large part because, compared with the U.S., a much higher percentage of Internet users in developing countries with huge populations access the Internet via mobile devices.

U.S. mobile travel sales will reach $26.14 billion in 2014, 18.0% of total online travel sales, eMarketer predicts.U.S.mobile travel sales will grow to $66.69 billion in 2018, 37.0% of total online travel sales.

Follow Bill Siwicki, managing editor, mobile commerce, Internet Retailer, and his coverage of the mobile commerce market at @IRmcommerce.


eMarketer, m-commerce, mobile commerce, mobile sales, mobile statistics, mobile travel, smartphones, tablet sales, tablets, Yoram Wurmser