People are purchasing more on mobiles than ever before – here’s what they’re spending on


In the beginning

When mobile phones first became popular, they were nothing more than an extension of a landline telephone with the facility to send short text messages. But even back then entrepreneurs saw the possibilities of driving product sales through text promotions. At the beginning of the 21st century, companies like Zagme were breaking new ground by offering location-specific promotions, so that while shopping, consumers would be delivered promotional offers directly relating to the stores they were near. The idea was to drive traffic into shops by offering a text-based coupon that could be redeemed in-store. At the time this was considered ground-breaking, ahead of its time, and revolutionary. In fact, it was ahead of its time and despite a predicted one million users by 2002 in the UK, Zagme shut shop in October 2001. The retailers had signed up, but the consumers and the technology were not ready for it.

Smartphone revolution

Fast forward to June 2007. While the smartphone had been around in concept form since 1992, it was the launch of Apple’s iPhone that changed everything.  Initially, the smartphone allowed you to make calls, send messages, access email, browse the web and listen to music. Then millions of apps became available and by 2015 84% of Americans said they couldn’t go a day without their phone. The development of Android made smartphones even more accessible, and now more than half of all internet shopping traffic takes place on a smartphone.

Desktop internet usage has fallen while mobile internet usage is on the rise. Nearly 90% of mobile usage is spent within apps according to a report in eMarketer in April 2020. Nearly 25% of all apps fall into the gaming category and 66% of users have a gaming app installed on their phone. This compares to 97.9% who have a communications or social media app, 92.6% who have a shopping app. With mobile banking and secure payment apps now standard, spending while on mobile is now perfectly normal. In fact, banks say that their apps are more secure than the browser version of internet banking.

Shopping on mobile

Mobile shopping, also known as mCommerce, really exploded in 2020. In the second quarter of the year, mobile retail spending in the USA added up to over $47.8 billion. This was 31% of all eCommerce in the USA, with people shopping across every category. Worldwide more than half of internet shoppers use their mobile device for purchases and seven in ten of them use shopping apps on their smartphones.

63% of females between the ages of 16 and 24 purchase products online using their mobile devices. The peak age category for men is slightly older with 58% of men between the age of 25 and 34 shopping for products and services from their smartphones.

Gaming on mobile

Gaming apps on mobile now offer all the fun of the arcade or console on the go. Whether on the daily commute or as a way to indulge in a little escapism in spare time online gaming offers great entertainment. While hackers and scammers might try and spoil the fun some straightforward steps ensure security online. Never give away your password or email, avoid using public WIFI networks and never respond to unauthorized emails.

There is literally no end of choice in the mobile gaming arena, you are spoiled for choice from big-name cross-platform games to quirky titles from smaller developers. Whatever takes your fancy be it Angrybirds, Pokémon Go, or Grand Theft Auto you can take your gaming with you. But gaming is a wider genre than video games with traditional offerings like word games and chess being constantly reinvented.

Mobile Gambling

Another subset of the gaming apps is the mobile gambling offerings. From slots and casinos to live sports betting there’s no need to go to the bookmakers or casino to take part in the action anymore.  Over half of US gamblers prefer to gamble online. The global average is 63% with India having the highest proportion of online gamblers at 76%. Whichever way you look at the figures, the rise in mobile gambling is significant with 70% of gambling revenue coming from mobile gambling in 2020 in the USA. While it could be argued that this is artificially high due to Covid restrictions, it is likely that once introduced to the convenience and fun, this is a trend that will continue with an upward trajectory.

As 2021 comes to a close, we can see that mCommerce and mGaming are outpacing desktop-based eCommerce and eGaming. The next step might be into the Metaverse with Virtual and Augmented Reality becoming easier to access and increasingly available. However, the flexibility of the small portable device that is the smartphone could be difficult to challenge in the short term.


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