With just a few simple taps on a smartphone screen, consumers can buy goods and have them delivered to their doorsteps almost instantaneously. 

And those shipments are stacking up. Mobile commerce, also known as m-commerce—which accounts for online purchases made via mobile devices, including tablets, and other portable technology, like smartphones—grew 276 percent from 2013 to 2017, and is projected to climb another 170 percent by 2021. This swift progression will bring m-commerce sales above those of computer-driven sales and drive nearly 54 percent of all online retail sales by 2021. 

M-commerce shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s on track to comprise most online sales by 2021, reflecting both consumers’ changing habits and retailers’ improved investment in mobile platforms. 


More Americans are carrying the world, including retailers’ offerings, in the palms of their hands. The rise in sales made on smartphones is no surprise, given the continued increase in smartphone use across the U.S. According to the Pew Research Center, 95 percent of American adults own cell phones and 77 percent own smartphones. The prevalence of both mobile devices and reliable Wi-Fi make it more convenient and accessible than ever to shop. 

Figure 1: M-Commerce Total Sales and Share of E-Commerce 

 Figure 2: M-commerce Sales by Device 
With smartphones in the hands of most Americans, the growth in m-commerce sales can be largely attributed to the speedy upswing in spending via smartphones. As shown in Figure 2, purchases made using smartphones made up 66 percent of m-commerce sales in 2017 and are predicted to advance to 82 percent by 2021. Though sales on tablets and other mobile devices are also expected to expand, the clear trend is toward the use of smartphones for mobile purchases. 

Figure 3: % of U.S. Adults Who Own Cell phones and Smartphones 


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 to pushing mobile: data. By engaging in loyalty programs, social media or retailer apps, consumers are sharing a wealth of information about their profiles and shopping habits. This, in turn, enables retailers to better understand their consumers and tailor products and offers to individual shoppers. 

With more time being spent on smartphones, now is the time for retailers to leverage this exploding trend. Mobile shopping is changing the game and it would be a wise move for retailers to innovate strategies that cultivate a seamless shopping experience for consumers.

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