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Most Digital Buyers Will Make Purchases via a Smartphone by 2017

Smartphones are driving mcommerce sales growth as tablets’ share shrinks

February 16, 2016 | Retail & Ecommerce

Next year will mark a milestone for US ecommerce, as more than half of digital buyers in the country will use a smartphone to complete a purchase during 2017. According to eMarketer’s latest forecast, 95.1 million Americans ages 14 and older, or 51.2% of digital buyers, will make at least one purchase via a smartphone.

US Smartphone Buyers and Penetration, 2014-2020 (millions and % of digital buyers)

“Most shoppers regularly browse and research on their smartphones, but they’re now also making purchases with them,” said eMarketer retail analyst Yory Wurmser. “As mobile sites become better optimized and screen sizes grow, it’s becoming easier for shoppers to complete the purchase on the smartphone, which will drive mcommerce numbers up for the next several years.”

Looking at sales, 2017 will also be a benchmark year as $75.51 billion, or 50.0% of all retail mcommerce sales, will be transacted on smartphones. That will be up from 48% in 2016. As smartphones’ share of mcommerce sales continues to rise, tablets’ share will continue to fall. This year, tablets will capture 50.6% of mcommerce sales, with that figure falling to 48.7% next year. For perspective, mcommerce this year will represent 32.0% of all ecommerce sales, but just 2.6% of total retail sales.

US Smartphone Retail Mcommerce Sales, 2014-2020 (billions, % change and % of total retail mcommerce sales)

Yet even as smartphones continue to capture a larger portion of ecommerce sales, challenges remain. Far more shopping sessions are initiated on smartphones than are completed on smartphones. This year, 165.8 million Americans 14 and over will shop (that is, browse, research or compare products) on a smartphone, but not necessarily complete the purchase on their phone. That figure represents 78.5% of total digital shoppers in the US.

“In order to get people to make purchases on their phones, retailers need to make it as easy as possible for consumers,” said Wurmser. “That means fully optimized mobile websites, a checkout process with few steps, and fully personalized merchandising.”

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