Solutions for closing the gap between browsing and buying on mobile

By August 27, 2015Ecommerce

Yesterday I wrote about the yawning gap between the 60% of retail browsing and the 15% of purchases that occur on mobile. Michael Haynes commented:

one of the biggest pain points in mcommerce currently is how difficult it is to fill out all the forms – especially if checking out on a new website and factoring in that many sites require registration. It becomes a nightmare that most people will just leave and checkout on a desktop

That makes sense to me. The pain in filling out forms is the biggest reason I sometimes move to my laptop to complete purchases, and bear in mind I’m more patient than many other users because I’m professionally curious about mCommerce. When I do abandon a purchase on mobile it’s either because filling out the form takes too long or because it’s buggy on mobile.

Conversely the beauty of apps like Uber and Amazon is that they have my data already and I can check out with one click.

The key to getting people to purchase on their phones, then, is to take care of the site registration and form filling. There are two broad types of solution getting talked about at the moment:

  • AI based assistants based in the mobile OS – Google Now and Siri lead the pack
  • Messaging clients – Facebook and WeChat are out front here, but services like Telegram and Snapchat are also interesting

I think these all have stated ambitions to enable commerce from a chat style interface, but aren’t doing it yet in volume. Ultimately they will store your personal information and credit card data for you and supply it to ecommerce companies when you want to buy something.

The big question is how discovery will work. If I want to buy flowers on Whatsapp what options will I get? Best case for me is I search and get a full list of providers who have integrated with an open API, appropriately ranked. Worst case is I get to choose between a small number of companies that Facebook has chosen to partner with.

Search currently happens in the browser of course. An alternative solution would be for my data to be stored in the browser and made available to automatically fill out forms. That would keep the open-ness of the web, which would be great for discovering new services. Nobody’s talking about this idea though, at least not that I’ve heard.

  • Steven Hess

    I wonder whether the key to simplifying the process and therefore accelerating adoption is to make the sharing of relevant data simple, secure and straight forward. You want to Write Once, Read Many – WORM (!) Store the necessary information on your local device and provide a token to the new 3rd party to enable them to register address, credit card etc.


    Hi Nic,

    This is exactly what Mylofo are all about. Remember we met last September to discuss? I’m really excited by this space. Obviously the plan is to have local people discover while on the site and then, provided they have purchased once before from any other shop on the system, they are only one click (maybe make it two to keep Amazon happy) away from a purchase.

    You asked me to get a working MVP and some users which we have now. So, how about catching up again at the next FP office hours?

    Best Wishes,

    David Fleming

  • Very interesting insight. I think another potential reason why people in the US prefer to buy things via desktop and not mobile is because many eCommerce companies have not optimized mobile sites, and often it is hard to search and find things from their mobile apps. Once someone inputs their credit card info, since many sites keep this info, the one-click checkout should essentially work for most sites. My experience with US eCommerce mobile sites is that it is not neatly streamlined and not as easy to use as Asian-based eCommerce sites.

  • Totally. The question is where is the WORM store (intelligent assistant, messaging app, mobile browser, somewhere else?) and if it isn’t the browser how do consumers search for stuff they want to buy and then link it to the store.

  • Hi David – my notes tell me talked about a local play – what we’re talking about here is a global software solution. That’s a bit of a disconnect??
    Maybe my notes are wrong.

  • Hi Sierra – people are spending a lot of time browsing the sites on mobile, so they can’t be that bad.


    Hi Nic,

    Your notes must be wrong alright! Local info/news/social network with local businesses sitting on top of that platform. Obviously scalable for the global market.

    You agreed with the scalability of the market but were concerned that I might not get people to produce content. I think I have solved that issue.



  • We noticed this in our stats as well.

    What we did:
    We reduced the number of fields to a minimum, and using stripe as credit card provider.
    After this change, we saw a growth of mobile sales. (desktop is still #1)

    Once the deal is closed, (and paid) our clients gets an email with confirmation, with link to customer service and their profile.
    So they can add more information if they want, but not mandatory
    At the same time , the profit of this procedure is that you connect with your clients

  • Sorry! In that case pls do come in again.

    Email me and I will make sure you get a slot.

    “Hi Nic, Your notes must be wrong alright! Local

  • Michael Haynes

    I think that auto-filling is certainly a part of the solution, however when talking about multiple form sections (delivery address, invoice address, credit card information) the accuracy of input becomes super important. I use 1password heavily and it sometimes struggles just auto-filling the username/password field let alone an address that can have varying form structures. It also requires a fair amount of effort from the browser vendor as well as the mcommerce sites themselves to make sure it all fits together without driving users away through frustration.

    The way to win is through leveraging the power of defaults (e.g. Apple Maps vs Google maps) and the power of convenience (e.g. piracy – Spotify, Netflix). That means using technologies such as Apple Pay which is already bundled and super easy to use and using OCR and sensor data where possible. Unfortunately access to these technologies is not available through the browser just yet hence why I think native apps is the route to go at the moment (including as you mentioned buying through other apps such as chat apps which is very successful in Asia).

  • That all makes sense, but I worry about the owners of those apps building walled gardens with uninteresting partners.

  • Fabio De Bernardi

    Isn’t the solution easier? What is needed is a company doing just one thing, ie storing the information needed to complete the purchase (which after all are always the same). As a user you are incentivised to keep your record updated because it saves you time, and to gain recognition / traction the company would need a few good partnerships with mCommerce sites to begin with. Well, eCommerce too because this makes sense on a desktop as well.

    It could be a new company (pay per transaction? flat fee?) or perhaps an existing player which has already the relationship with retailers (PayPal?).

    Maybe it’s time I go back to the entrepreneurial game 🙂

  • Dan Field

    Isn’t this what Apple Pay are trying to do? Enter your details once and then single click (finger-print scan) to pay – hopefully with your full delivery details too?

  • They’re definitely part of the solution. Interesting question whether the payment piece alone is enough or whether they have to deal with delivery address and site registration too.

  • Dan Field

    I’d like to be able to press (Finger print) and have my whole lot auto-filled for me.

    Amazon have this nailed in their App already (Although I did enter the details on my desktop)… I now sign in with my finger print when ordering and select one of the many delivery addresses they have on file.

    Now if Apple Pay (Or another) can do that for everyone…

  • Steven Hess

    I believe it has to be both, payment and delivery (or other such personal info) as required). Maybe the answer lies in a composite of payment (apple pay/ Amex etc) and delivery (opportunity for DHL/ post office) etc.

  • I’m surprised that no one has mentioned using their mobile phone Humber as a way of authenticating a transaction. All you would need to do is link your phone number to a credit card provider or bank (which a already exists); in most cases they as already have your email address. With a bit of UX we work you might even be able to combine this with social fingerprinting to make the mobile almost instantaneous. Just think one click mobile transaction!

  • Exactly. That’s the future and it can’t be that far away…