How mobile shopping behavior is shaping the future of e-commerce

The overwhelming power of mobile has shaped a world which was impossible to imagine by someone 20 years ago. The most striking aspect of this new reality is its rapid pace of change, which can be difficult to fully comprehend.

Smartphones have changed the way we interact with each other, how we learn, how we entertain ourselves and certainly how we consume.
But what drives the enduring dominance of mobile devices? The answer is straightforward: smartphones are the devices we use most frequently. They’re always with us and they are impressively good in terms of both hardware and software.

The following chart shows how mobile took over the world since 2009.

And here is another chart. This one shows the immense power of mobile in Africa in 2023, where access to electricity is not always given and life in general is quite different compared to western societies.

What we deduct from such charts is the fact that mobile devices are the main vehicle to access the Web. But what about shopping?

The chart below shows the result of a research taken in 2022 in America. People not only make purchases using their smartphones, they prefer to do so.

The advantages of smartphones

Given their small size, one might assume that smartphones are not a convenient platform for shopping. Everything appears smaller, screens are crowded with information, navigation is more difficult, and there’s often a sense of anxiety, especially during the purchasing process.
However, these factors do not deter people from making substantial online purchases. Why? There are several compelling reasons.


We mentioned it before, your smartphone is always with you. You can buy while moving, commuting or travelling (as long as you are not the driver), while waiting in a station or in a line, during a visit to a friend’s home. Anywhere and anytime. In fact our smartphones feel like the most valuable item we carry with us everyday.

Instant gratification

Instant gratification is the desire to experience pleasure or fulfillment immediately, without any delay. It is the opposite of delayed gratification, which involves resisting immediate rewards for a better and longer-term gain.
Making a purchase the moment you desire something floods your brain with happiness and delight. This immediate gratification is a complex experience that is rarely achieved when using a desktop computer.

Social media

Social media know a lot about us. Actually they have been trained to do so. By using powerful algorithms they detect our taste (according a series of parameters such as what we like, how much time we spend in a post, when we exit the app etc.) sometimes better than we do. As a result they can recommend us things we like. At the same time they have optimized the purchasing procedure by making it easy and safe. And as we all know we heavily tend to use social media from our smartphones.


People have distinct personalities and tastes, but we are all susceptible to influence regardless of what we might say. What varies is the type of influencers that affect us. Influencers are ubiquitous, but they thrive particularly on mobile apps like Instagram and TikTok. As a result, it’s easier to encounter an influencer while scrolling through an endless timeline on our smartphones. When we do, it becomes easier to purchase something recommended by that person.

Mobile apps

Brands, especially major ones, have developed their own apps, which are polished, fast, and user-friendly. These apps allow brands to promote their products exactly as they wish. Every operation in their app feels intuitive, whether it’s searching, comparing products, selecting colors, reading reviews, or finding similar items. Such apps significantly enhance the shopping experience compared to using a browser, regardless of screen size.

Mobile payment gateways

Modern mobile payment and wallet services like Apple Pay and Google Pay make shopping from a mobile device even simpler. Payment information (such as credit card number, expiration date, and CVV) is already stored securely, so there’s no need to enter it manually. The same applies to personal details like your name, address, city, and country. This makes it incredibly convenient to complete a purchase with just a long tap of a virtual button, significantly enhancing the ease and likelihood of mobile shopping.

User Experience and mobile shopping

There are fundamental differences in the way people experience online shopping from mobile comparing to desktop. If you have (or if you intend to have) an online shop, you should be aware of them.

Invest in a great responsive design

When it comes to online stores, a design that only looks and functions well on desktop computers is not a desirable solution. In today’s digital landscape, where mobile devices have become ubiquitous, it is absolutely crucial to ensure that the online store is optimized for seamless user experience across all platforms, including smartphones and tablets. This is one of the fundamental criteria to consider when choosing a theme for your Shopify store.

Be as fast as possible

In our post Picture Perfect Shopify: Photography Tips for Hardware & Automotive Stores we emphasize the importance of optimizing your photos to reduce website loading times. This is even more crucial for mobile users. Not everyone will access your online store via Wi-Fi or 5G speeds. It’s essential that they can complete a purchase easily, even on a 3G connection.

Reduce typing

Despite how natural it feels to use a smartphone, typing on them can still be frustrating. More demanding tasks, like entering passwords or adding credit card information, can be particularly challenging.
Any features that enhance the experience, such as auto-complete for names, suggested products, simple content discovery methods, and convenient payment gateways, are highly beneficial. Additionally, voice-activated actions, such as search, can be especially helpful, particularly for seniors.

Use sound and haptic feedback

If designed properly, simple and pleasant sounds can improve the shopping experience. Remember, when we hold a smartphone we are familiar with sounds, in particular those that confirm an action. On the contrary, sounds in desktop feel out of place.
Similarly haptic feedback, which is something occurring only in mobile, can provide a sense of satisfaction especially when it comes with visual change right after a successful purchase.

Put menus to the top of the page

Mobile apps tend to bind the bottom area of the app for navigation because it stands closer to our fingers. However this is not the case for websites. Users feel much safer when they detect the menu at the top of the page.
Also it feels very convenient to see the menu when scrolling up no matter how much you have already moved down the page. You can take a look at the demo of our theme Tokyo or Athens and see it with your own eyes.

Keep the gestures simple

We all know how to tap/double tap, pinch/spread, drag and press and we know when to use each touchscreen gesture. For example it feels intuitive to pinch an image in order to zoom in. Everyone know how to scroll down. We don’t need to invent new gestures, on the contrary this is a bad practice. It took us time and energy in order to establish such conventions, let’s keep them intact.

Embrace Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality although not new it still feels fresh because it is not widely adopted. Basically, it can help a potential customer to grasp the core aspects of a product very realistically. Of course it isn’t essential for each type of product. However when it comes to e.g. 3.a new chair and how it would look in your living room or a virtual pair of glasses on your face can change the shopping experience.

Support mobile getaways

We mentioned it above: mobile getaways such as Apple Pay reduce the number of steps a potential customer needs to take in order to complete a purchase. It is not a nice-to-have option, it is becoming a necessity.

Explore marketing strategies

A famous brand offers a fixed 10% discount in all products as long as you make a purchase from their mobile app. Well this may not apply to you, but it remains a strong hint we should all consider. There are several strategies you may want to try in order to make the most of your online store. Coupons, referrals, memberships, marketplaces, social media, advertising are all channels that could enhance online businesses.

Summing up

In web design there is the term “mobile first” which describes the approach where the design begins with mobile screens and then adapts to desktop. We can expand the idea and think mobile first in general when it comes to online shopping. Shopify and all similar platforms know it and they have made tremendous improvements in order to integrate more tools for mobile users. We’re living in the era when the familiar world of online shopping is rapidly changing to something new, but still recognizable. This change is driven by the increasing use of mobile devices for shopping online. We should be ready to incorporate it in order to make the most of it.

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