M-commerce, war on tiny screen – Korea Times


By Daniel Shin

Five point five inches. That’s the size that we’re talking about as being the average size of a smartphone. It tends to grow by 0.1 inches each year. The boundary between smartphone and tablet devices might be blurring. The tablet market is seeing modest growth, as a tablet has a much longer refresh cycle than a smartphone, as newer models offer nothing more than minor spec upgrades lately.

Mobile game development is a profitable industry. All game developers and publishers are striving toward making the next big success. Developing and monetizing mobile games is getting more complicated. The method of developing games is a complex process. Putting game plays on a tiny little screen requires more simplicity, while customer expectations are high, as they long for more immersive experiences and sophisticated visual impact on tiny little screens.

There is no doubt about how advanced mobile apps and the digital ecosystem in China have contributed to setting the nation on the right path toward the swift growth of the mobile internet there.

Over 90 percent of digital e-commerce sales are now done through mobile devices in China, versus approximately 50 percent in the U.S. Smartphone users in China number approximately 930 million while in the U.S., they total 270 million. U.S. smartphone penetration is over 80 percent, but China has more room to grow, as its smartphone penetration rate is still only above 60 percent. China is on the fast track to become a mobile first nation faster than anyone else, bypassing the PC-based internet era.

Alipay and WeChat are known as de facto standard super apps in Greater China. Other popular apps, such as Meituan (food) and Didi (ride-hailing), are quickly joining this circle of superpower apps.

As Apple and Google have done with their App Store and Play Store, the main app acts as a window to access the world of the mobile internet and contains many sub apps or mini programs developed either by the main app operator or third-party partners.

Super apps essentially act as the single best route to a wide range of mobile first lifestyles. You can chat and socialize with friends, read news, learn a new hobby, buy stuff, pay bills, make investments, book a taxi, order food, check your COVID-19 health status or make donations.

People can do everything they can think of with super apps and see less reason to be on a mobile web browser or sit in front of a computer. You may get a new computer once every five to six years, but the smartphone replacement cycle is much shorter than that. Smartphones’ computing power and data capabilities will surpass personal computers soon.

Consumers want convenience and simplicity. Like a mobile game, mobile commerce service providers should make their user experience simple and frictionless on a tiny little screen. Consumers want their goods to be delivered as quickly, safely, conveniently and cheaply as possible.

Consumers’ overall mobile experience will play a critical role in converting prospects into leads. Primary product purchase decisions are made within these tiny little screens, rather than at stores or on wide computer screens. So visual design, images, headlines and functional information are all important to communicate the brand’s personality and attractiveness, but all their communications have to be optimized for mobile audiences to be fully engaged and to make people willingly pay for products and services.

Alibaba achieved $84.5 billion in sales over its Singles Day shopping festival campaign. The company’s growth rate this year was much lower (8.5 percent) than in previous years, due to tightening regulations on tech companies in China. Nine out of 10 shoppers joined this shopping spree at their convenience from their palms.

People speed swipe-on shopping apps for different reasons. The majority of decisions to stay or not are made in one second based on the looks and attractiveness of the deals offered by brands or retailers. Again, a large sum of shopping is all done on the tiny little screens of people’s smartphones in their pockets, anywhere and anytime.

Live commerce and short form video social networks are also transforming online shopping into more interactive, fun and entertaining experiences and that’s what social commerce is all about. Sales from live commerce sales have already reached $157 billion. Again, they were mostly done on tiny little screens.

Therefore, let’s forget any content production method that belongs to the old legacy e-commerce era, if you really want to play the long game in the mobile age. What could have worked for PC-based e-commerce won’t be relevant anymore for next-generation mobile consumers.

Retailers will find ways to survive by offering excellent customer service and different experiential elements that nowadays physical retail alone offers. Retailers will increasingly put more emphasis on people who are on the move and give more incentives to those who are willing to reveal their footprints throughout their customer journeys back and forth across the border between the on- and offline.

It is not really about how much money people will spend, but rather about how much of people’s time and attention span for brands and retailers can win over on that tiny little screen. So, let’s think about how to win this war on a 5.5-inch screen; everything else is not necessary.
Daniel Shin is a venture capitalist and senior luxury fashion executive, overseeing corporate development at MCM, a German luxury brand. He also teaches at Korea University.

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