Smartphones have revolutionized many aspects of how we live our lives. From the convenience of text messaging to keep in touch, map apps which keep us from getting lost, immediate access to our favorite social apps to stay engaged, and always having a camera to document what we see and experience, the smartphone is an incredibly useful device. Most of us feel practically naked when we forget and leave it at home.
And increasingly, smartphones are supplanting desktop and laptop computers as the default device for accessing the internet.
This was the finding in eMarketer’s latest forecast report which predicts that there will be just 17.9 million desktop/laptop-only internet users in the U.S. this year, down from 20.3 million in 2016. At the same time, mobile-only users will see steady growth over the next few years, reaching 52.3 million in 2021, up from 40.7 million (estimated) this year and 36.6 million in 2016.
The largest share, by far, are dual-device users, accessing the internet via both a mobile device and PC. The report found that over three-quarters of U.S. internet users will be dual-device users in 2017, with approximately nine million new dual-device users throughout the forecast period.
Mobile access and commerce are a driving force in emerging economies where many consumers are more likely to have a smartphone or a feature-phone than they are to have a desktop or laptop computer. The fact that they can shop and make purchases via their mobile phones gives these consumers that much more buying power and access to goods and services. Mobile devices also provide important access to banking and other financial services.
Rimma Perelmuter, CEO of Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF) notes that, “The adoption of mobile money continues to advance. In developed markets, mobile payments and banking are driving a revolution in convenience. In growth markets, they are giving millions of people access to financial services for the first time.”
Chinese consumers are particularly active. According to a recent report by the MEF, 88% of Chinese report transacting via their mobile devices compared to 80% in the U.S. and only 66% in France. In addition, 38% of Chinese consumers use a mobile device to pay in-store – nearly double the global average of 18%.
Of note is that the research shows that mobile shopping for digital content has actually fallen in the last two years, from 37% in 2014 to 30% in 2016. The MEF attributes this to the move to changing consumption patterns perhaps due to subscription services. For example, a music streaming service provides access to new music via a monthly fee, replacing the need to purchase individual music tracks.
In terms of payment types, usage varies. The report found a large percentage (41%) pay by typing in their card details to a mobile website; 35% pay via their phone bill (a practice called carrier billing). Another option was payment via an app (31%) or a mobile wallet. All told, 18% of consumers in the nine countries surveyed have used their mobile phone to pay in a store in 2016, a considerable increase from the 8% who did so in 2014.
Clearly, e-commerce merchants, including subscription merchants, benefit from offering their customers and prospects an array of mobile payment options. A well-designed mobile website as part of an omnichannel experience is also an important consideration.