The Roles Mobile and Desktop Play in the Retail Purchase Journey

February 22, 2016

Think mCommerce’s relatively low conversion rates mean mobile doesn’t matter? You’re looking at the wrong KPI.

Even purchases happening on desktop and in-person are heavily influenced by mobile. If you don’t have a best-in-class mobile presence, you’ll be missing out on a huge part of the conversation.

If you’ve gotten pushback on your mobile commerce strategy, you’ve probably been quoted the data that shows checkout completion on mobile is just a fraction of desktop – especially when it comes to more complex purchases. Admittedly, mobile behavior is quite different than that on a desktop; people on mobile devices are on the go, and have a very short attention span.

What this non-nuanced statistic fails to include, however, is the pervasive nature of mobile throughout every area of the customer purchase journey. Mobile informs the process from awareness to research to action – and really shines when it comes to engagement. Knowing when and how to make mobile count – and where you should temper mobile expectations – is key to creating an effective, inclusive and successful omnichannel retail strategy.


The consumption of content and news has decidedly shifted to mobile. Whether sitting on the subway and browsing an app or checking out ads and coupons for products, mobile drives tons of traffic in the awareness stage of the purchase cycle.

Fact is, consumers spend much of their spare time on mobile devices. More than 80 percent of smartphone users don’t leave the house without their phones.¹ And today people spend more time on smartphones than watching TV. The average adult in the U.S. spends almost three hours a day using a mobile device.²

While it may be cumbersome to add credit card information and complete a checkout, leveraging mobile users’ compulsive browsing can build both awareness and a desire for a product that will eventually lead to a purchase down the road … whether it’s via mobile, desktop, or in-store.


Mobile apps are a great way to enable customers to interact more deeply with your brand at the research stage, especially when it comes to reviews. Reviews have probably had the most dramatic impact on both eCommerce and in-store purchases – 88 percent of consumers rely heavily on online reviews when they’re purchasing from unfamiliar brands, and 67 percent of consumers say online reviews are very influential even when making purchases from brands they know and love³. Quick access to online reviews or live chats with customer service reps can tip the scales decidedly in your favor.

Mobile research has also almost completely overtaken the legwork customers used to do in advance of making the final buying decision. Where customers used to physically visit a store, browse products and ask the store clerk about a product – even going from store-to-store to do price comparisons – today, they’re watching YouTube reviews on the sofa at home, Googling product specs while waiting in line at the grocery store and comparing different options from one website to another.

Even if a customer is going into a store, offering smart mobile capabilities encourages users to scan products and pull up top customer reviews or essential product details, pushing them further toward the purchase.


Yes, add-to-basket and purchase rates are lower on mobile than on desktop, but consumers actually view the same number of products whether they’re on a mobile device or a desktop⁴. In general, consumers are very comfortable using a mobile device to purchase small ticket items they buy with high frequency. For bigger purchases, the final buy happens elsewhere.

However, it wasn’t that long ago that web purchases had the same completion rates as mobile does today. People browsed the web but rarely made a purchase – it was unfamiliar, inconvenient and didn’t feel secure. Now people purchase everything online, from contacts to clothes, furniture to food. Mobile seems to be on a similar trajectory. As new technologies like Apple Pay and fingerprint locks make checkout faster, easier and more secure, consumer comfort will soar. For millennials, making mobile purchases is already second nature.

In the short term, any way to bridge the gap between mobile and desktop carts and customer service will go a long way toward easing the disparity in checkout completion. Linking live customer service with a feed from mobile that provides background on a user issue in advance of their call streamlines the resolution process. Omnichannel carts, where users can add a product on their mobile device and have it automatically appear in their cart on desktop, translate into a mobile-influenced improvement in the checkout completion rate on desktop.

In the long term, if you’re not experienced on mobile when consumers finally make the full shift to mobile purchasing, you’ll most certainly be left in the dust.


Loyalty is the brass ring when it comes to commerce, and when you want to engage with a customer post-purchase, there is no better platform than a native mobile app. Your brand is literally in their back pocket, which is the best real estate you can get. Think of the possibilities. Push notifications for seasonal promotions or shipping/delivery notifications. Order history and simplified re-order features. Incredibly powerful personalization capabilities that deliver the ideal set of products and services for a customers’ geographic, demographic and psychographic profile.

Take a movie theater’s app, for example. It can use geolocation and viewing history to display show times for the movies a customer want to see. Then, with a simple click, the tickets are paid for, delivered to the customer’s phone so they can skip the lines, and finally the purchase is automatically attributed to their loyalty rewards account. The next time the customer opens the app, it asks them for feedback on how the movie was and uses that information to tailor the recommendations and promotions they’ll be sent in the future. This just doesn’t happen on desktop. Even if people are taking that final action of buying the tickets on desktop, they probably watched the trailers and found movie times on their phone.

If your brand isn’t a part of every phase from research through post-purchase, then you’re leaking potential customers from your purchase funnel. And ignoring mobile’s potential impact across all aspects of the buying process will hurt your revenue both on desktop and in-store. Mobile is about taking a one-time customer and converting them into at least a repeat customer and, ideally, a brand advocate.\