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Snackable shopping is changing the mobile commerce scene as users buy little and often

Retailers are seeing consumers increasingly making a number of quick and cheap purchases throughout the day via mobile apps, rather than gathering things in their baskets and buying all at once.


It’s said that we check our phones on average up to 85 times per day. We do so in bed, on our commutes, in the office, in front of the TV, even while we’re on the toilet. We’re doing so to browse content and connect with friends of course, but increasingly we’re also doing so to shop.

Mobile commerce jumped 56% to $49.2bn in the US in 2015, which is double the previous year’s growth, according to comScore. While desktop sales were still substantially higher at $256.1bn, growth slowed to 8.1% from 12.5%.

“Mobile devices are driving demand,” Andrew Lipsman, a comScore vice president, told The Wall Street Journal. “They can create an impulsive buying moment at any point in the day because they are with you all the time, right in your pocket.”

It’s on that basis that retailers are seeing consumers increasingly making a number of quick and cheap purchases throughout the day, rather than gathering things in their baskets and buying all at once. Referred to as “snacking”, this new mode of commerce places the smartphone as an “all-day impulse aisle”.

Speaking at the FashTech Summit in London last week, Daniel Murray, co-founder of shopping app Grabble, noted a similar trend. Grabble originally had a traditional cart, or basket, in place that would gather items users wanted to buy, but no one was then actually making their purchases. “We ripped [the basket] up and did it item by item instead,” he explained. “If you ask a user, they say they want to add everything to a basket, but then they do that and abandon it. They’d see a £300 bill and decide they don’t want to buy it after all. Now we have users who compulsively repeatedly buy item after item.”

It’s a straightforward concept; a matter of psychology convincing people to purchase little and often rather than shelling out huge sums. But Murray says it’s also about simplicity in the process. “If there’s any friction, then there’s going to be a problem with conversion. You have to make the experience as simple as possible, otherwise you miss out.”

Grabble has made the steps in between wanting to buy and completing checkout as short as possible in order to enable it.

This “snacking” particularly takes place in apps, rather than the mobile web. For retailers however, app visits are an ongoing battle – stats from Forrester demonstrate US and UK consumers now spend more than 88% of their app time on just five downloaded apps. Within that, aggregation apps and platforms like Facebook and WeChat that provide content and services in one contextual stream, are the most-used. “As an app, you have an existential crisis every day of why you exist on [consumers’] phones,” Murray noted.

Yet eMarketer shows US consumers spent 3 hours and 5 minutes a day using apps last year, compared to 51 minutes surfing the mobile web. In 2016 that’s expected to increase a further 10 minutes for apps, and stay at 51 minutes for mobile browsers. To be one of those top five then, is about creating consistently relevant needs for consumers.

The ability for push notifications helps, especially if targeting a younger consumer. According to messaging app Kik, which particularly appeals to US teens, users are three times more likely to open a notification than they are an email.

Retailers have to become increasingly savvy about how they position such updates however, sharing content that appeals to and not bugs the user on what’s considered their most personal device, said Murray. A savvy combination of geo-activated messages, right time rewards, and more personalised offers and content, are routes to success thanks to the data collection such apps now enable.

But it’s that simple one-click purchase to satisfy an always-on culture of snackable shopping, that’s making the real difference.

By Rachel Arthur

Rachel Arthur is Editor-in-Chief of Current Daily, the leading news source for fashion, retail and innovation, and the co-host of its weekly Innovators podcast. She otherwise serves as Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Current Global, a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion luxury and retail. By background she is an award-winning business journalist and consultant, contributing to titles including Wired, Forbes and Business of Fashion.

2 replies on “Snackable shopping is changing the mobile commerce scene as users buy little and often”

You’re mixing up US consumer data stats with a UK based company… and picking and choosing apps across geographies to support your your argument. Would love to see a more locational based case studies which gives a truer sense of what is happening on mobile ecommerce.

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