The 3 Most Common M-Commerce Questions Answered

Last Holiday season was a tipping point for mobile: Traffic surged to mobile shopping sites and apps. M-sites crashed from the onslaught of shoppers. And people got comfortable not only researching but also purchasing gifts on mobile.

Magazine_ThumbnailLooking at our own data, we saw that people on Facebook bought on mobile 46% more during the last Holiday season than during the non-Holiday season.1 Facebook IQ predicts that in Q4 of this year the percentage of online purchasers transacting on a mobile device will rise by 30%.2

The mobile shift has happened, and the thumb is in charge. For the second post in a series examining what this means for brands, Kelly Graziadei, Facebook’s Direct Response Product Marketing Director, spoke to Helen Crossley, Facebook IQ’s Head of Consumer Insights Research, about 3 of the most common questions marketers ask about how to succeed in mobile commerce:

  • How can I increase mobile basket sizes?
  • Should I invest in an m-site or an app?
  • What should I expect in the future in terms of m-commerce?

Read on for an edited excerpt of that conversation.


Kelly: One of the biggest concerns we hear from marketers is that basket sizes on mobile are lower than on desktop and in-store. What have you found through Facebook IQ’s internal analysis? 

Helen: We found that mobile basket sizes, on average and in aggregate, are worth 60 cents to the dollar versus a desktop transaction, whereas a tablet transaction, on average, is worth $1 (the same) versus a desktop transaction.3

But that’s not the whole story. Several different factors account for the lower basket size on mobile phones. For instance, there’s a good number of people who buy on mobile phones who don’t have daily access to tablets and desktops, so they’re likely to have less disposable income and are probably spending less. There are also a good number of quick, low-consideration transactions that are happening on mobile phones that would be lower in basket size no matter where people purchase.


Kelly: So how did you control for those variables? 

Helen: We decided to look at the same people who bought across both a smartphone and a desktop computer. We also controlled for what they were buying, so they were purchasing from the same categories across devices.

And what we found is that when you control for people and the categories they’re buying from across both devices, smartphone and desktop basket sizes are actually on par.3


Kelly: What does that finding tell us?

Helen: It tells us that it’s about the people behind the devices rather than the devices themselves. Given that the basket sizes of people who buy on both smartphones and desktop computers from the same stores are on par when controlled for the categories they are purchasing from, we know it’s not about the size of the screen. People who own both a smartphone and a desktop are less likely to be mobile-dependent and more likely to have more disposable income and be tech-savvy.


Kelly: So how would you answer a marketer who asks: “How do I increase my mobile basket sizes?”

Helen: I would say to stop obsessing about your mobile basket sizes. And start focusing on the friction points that are stopping some people from buying on mobile at all. Once you get more people shopping on mobile, that’s what’s going to increase those mobile basket sizes.


Kelly: Another recurring question we get from marketers is about interfaces. It’s the mobile age debate: Should I invest in an m-site or an app? Or both? What have you found?

Helen: In looking specifically at mobile purchases, we found that 58% are on m-sites and 42% are on apps.1 When we examined basket sizes on an m-site versus an app, we found people spend 43 cents in app to every $1 spent on m-site.3

Despite this behavior, a recent survey revealed that omni-channel shoppers, based on their recent shopping experiences, prefer apps over m-sites because of the more seamless checkout experience, saying that apps provide a safer and smoother checkout process and hold payment information. They also find apps easier to navigate than m-sites when browsing and say they see product details more easily on apps.4


Kelly: People are enjoying the in-app experience more, but they’re spending less money there. It doesn’t add up. 

Helen: Again, this is only half of the story. In examining the number of transactions on m-sites versus in apps over the course of 6 months, we found that there are fewer transactions on m-sites and more on apps for people who are frequent mobile shoppers.3

If someone is a frequent shopper, they’re more likely to be an in-app shopper. If someone is coming to a retailer for the first time or only buy once in a while, they’re more likely to be an m-site shopper.3


What that means is that, while m-sites tend to attract larger purchases, those purchases are less frequent. And while apps attract smaller purchases, those purchases are more frequent—and possibly just as lucrative, if not more lucrative, over the long term.


Kelly: So what would you advise for marketers deciding to invest in either an m-site or in an app? 

Helen: I would say to determine your primary goal. Is it about driving customer acquisition? Or is it about driving frequency and loyalty? Use the answer to direct your investment in your mobile commerce experience.


Kelly: What do you think is going to happen in m-commerce over the next 1–3 years?

Helen: Millennials, who make up the Thumb Generation that grew up swiping their thumbs across screens, are going to continue to drive this growth. The Thumb Generation is more likely to conduct commerce-related activities on their mobile devices than the older generations who came of age exerting control through a mouse or a remote. For instance, 83% of Millennials research products on their smartphone compared to 66% of Gen Xers (the Mouse Generation) and 25% of Boomers (the Remote Generation). 69% of Millennials buy products on their smartphone compared to 53% of Gen Xers and 16% of Boomers.4


Kelly: And looking further out?

Helen: In 5–10 years, the mobile shopper is going to be everyone. With Millennials increasing in purchasing power and becoming your core consumers, followed by Gen Zers who should be considered as mobile native as Millennials were digital native, the thumb is clearly in charge.

To be successful today and into the future, my biggest tip is focus on people, not the devices. It’s the people who will be telling you what you should be doing and where you should be investing. And it’s the people you ultimately have to build and design for, now that the thumb is in charge.


1 Facebook internal data, US only, Oct 1, 2014–May 31, 2015. Analysis of conversion pixel and App Events data for ads that were shown to people ages 18+ on Facebook. The gaming vertical is excluded from this analysis.
2 Facebook internal data, US only, Oct 2014–Sep 2015. Predictive modeling and analysis of conversion pixel or App Events data for ads that were shown to people ages 18+ on Facebook and that led to purchases between $2–$1,000. Gaming ads were not tracked. Predictive modeling was used to distinguish mobile and desktop shoppers.
3 Facebook internal data, US only, Mar–Aug 2015. Analysis of conversion pixel and App Events data for ads that were shown to people ages 18+ on Facebook and that led to purchases between $5–$500. Gaming ads were not tracked.
4 “Omni-channel Shoppers” by GfK, US only (Facebook-commissioned online study and opt-in panel of 2,407 people ages 18+ who have researched online and bought 1 of 5 key categories in last 3 months), conducted to quantify key differences in shopping behavior across channels (tablets, mobile phones, PCs, brick-and-mortar retails) and fielded Sep 16–18, 2015.