Mobile Shopping Grows, but American Consumers Cautious

While the percentage of smartphone shoppers in the U.S. is about average compared to the rest of the world, it fell far behind countries like China.

mobile commerce and paypal

The United States was about average globally in the amount of shoppers who have bought online in the past year using a smartphone, which put them on par with countries including the United Kingdom, Australia and Brazil, according to a PayPal study of 17,600 consumers in 22 countries.

The report also indicated mobile commerce, also know as m-commerce, is growing at three times the rate of e-commerce--between 2013 and 2016, the compound annual growth rate for m-commerce is projected at 42 percent compared to 13 percent for e-commerce.

Millennials (18-34 year-olds) accounted for an average of 59 percent of mobile shoppers around the world. In China, they account for 86 percent and in Mexico, 88 percent.

While the percentage of smartphone shoppers in the U.S. is about average compared to the rest of the world, the U.S. fell far behind mobile leaders like China, who had more than double the percentage of smartphone shoppers in America.

While U.S. smartphone shoppers are buying everyday needs, one quarter of mobile shoppers in China are purchasing leisure, hobby and outdoors products more than anything else.

"U.S. shoppers cite that one of the biggest barriers to shopping with their phone is screen size. But when you are buying everyday essentials, what that item is, or looks like, is a known factor – for example, a can of soup," Melissa O’Malley, director of global merchant and trade initiatives at PayPal, told eWeek. "So it makes sense that when U.S. shoppers buy with their phone, they shop is for items that are easy to purchase that don’t require more detailed information or zoomed in photos."

The U.K. was more similar to the US with babies and children’s supplies and groceries as the most common mobile purchase.

Security breaches and screen size appear to play a factor in the slower-than-expected uptake in mobile shopping in America-- compared to the rest of the world, U.S. shoppers are more concerned about security, and nearly 40 percent of smartphone shoppers said the screen size was too small.

"Larger devices will help create higher adoption for mobile commerce as people’s feedback has been screen sizes are too small for mobile shopping," O’Malley said. "Phablets and larger phones are growing in popularity and as they become more prevalent, these devices will help the rate of m-commerce rise. Mobile payment platforms also support the top three reasons why US consumers want to shop with a mobile app: it’s a convenient way to pay, it’s a fast way to pay, and it means people don’t need to carry a physical wallet to pay."