Adaptive Spaces

What is the Role of M-Commerce in Retail Sales?

May 16, 2022 4 Minute Read

By Brandon Isner


M-commerce refers to the share of online purchases made via mobile devices, including tablets, smartphones and other portable technology like smart watches. It has rapidly grown into a significant segment of e-commerce, as consumers have become more comfortable with the technology. Retailers have responded by launching apps that offer an online product and selling platform, giving consumers access to in-store guidance and a connection with the supply chain to investigate product availability.

Forrester estimates that m-commerce accounts for approximately 45% of e-commerce sales. By 2024, it’s estimated that m-commerce will account for over 13% of total U.S. retail sales, including all channels.

Figure 1: M-Commerce Share of Total Retail

m-commerce-figure1-web (1)

Source: Forrester, April 2021.

Growth of m-commerce sales is dominated by the smartphone segment. While sales generated by tablet users have plateaued, the share of smartphone sales has swelled, averaging over 40% annual growth from 2016 through 2020. In 2015 smartphones made up just over half of m-commerce sales. By 2020, that share had soared to 75%, and forecasts suggest it will increase to 83% by 2024. Though sales on tablets and other mobile devices are expected to increase, the clear trend is toward the use of smartphones for mobile purchases.

Figure 2: Growth of M-Commerce Sales by Device


Source: Forrester, April 2021.

Consumers and M-Commerce

The rise in mobile sales is no surprise, given the continued increase in smartphone use across the U.S. According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2021, 97% of U.S. adults own cellphones and 85% own smartphones. Additionally, 15% of respondents report that their smartphone is their only home internet access, up from 8% in 2013.

QR code usage is yet another driver of m-commerce. In an August 2021 Forrester survey, 56% of respondents had used a QR code. This trend has been accelerated by the pandemic, where early guidance on COVID-19 encouraged caution regarding physical contact of potentially contaminated surfaces. Restaurants were early leaders, using QR codes at tables to link patrons to menus, ordering and payment.

Figure 3: U.S. Smartphone QR Code Scanners, in Millions of Persons


Note: Age 18+ Smartphone users who have scanned a QR code at least once per year.

Source: eMarketer Insider Intelligence, Dec 2021.

Retailers and M-Commerce

Alongside changes in technology and consumer shopping habits, retailers’ investments in mobile channels are contributing significantly to m-commerce growth. From marketing and social media to apps and mobile-friendly websites, retailers across categories are implementing strategies to reach consumers via their phones. Though these investments are clearly driven by consumer demand, there is another incentive for retailers to encourage m-commerce: data. By engaging with social media or retailer apps or participating in loyalty programs, consumers are sharing a wealth of information about their profiles and shopping habits. This data, in turn, enables retailers to better understand their consumers and tailor products and offers to individual shoppers.

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