Mercator Blog

Consumers Ditch Computers for Phones in E-commerce
Date: October 21, 2020
Peter Reville
Director, Primary Research Services
It seems like the smartphone has become an extension of our arms. In fact, surveys have suggested that people would much rather lose their wallets than their mobile devices. I think few would argue that the smartphone has become an integral part of our daily lives.

With that said, it should come as no surprise that the smartphone is on its way to parity and soon to overtake the personal computer as the primary consumer e-commerce shopping device. A Mercator report published earlier year titled Buyer PaymentsInsights: The Organic Move to Mobile observed how the American consumer was beginning to shift towards mobile devices when it came to shopping. I think it worth noting that the data for that report was collected in February, before COVID-19 became a global pandemic.

Survey data collected in our June North American PaymentsInsights, at the pandemic’s height, only reinforces these findings. The slide below explores the different ways consumers choose to pay when shopping online. Overall the rates of purchase are on par with the 2019 results. The big shift, however, has come in the choice of device. The use of computers to check out has declined at the expense of smartphones. In other words, there has been a significant shift in the way people are buying things online.

Consumers Ditch Computers

It used to be that buying things with a smartphone was something only technically savvy individuals would do—younger adults and higher income consumers. The data above clearly point to the move to mainstream. As the younger adult ages and new uber-tech savvy Americans come to maturity this trend is certainly going to grow.

The reasons for this trend are pretty clear. There is the generational issue described above, compounded by retailers and payments companies that are making it easier to check out with a mobile device. Apps, universal wallets (Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc.) and card-on-file all appear to be driving the ease of making mobile payments for e-commerce. Let’s not forget the overarching driver of this change –trust. Without trust in the payments services and the protection of money and personal information afforded by the current infrastructure, all the technology bells and whistles are for naught.

If I were a betting man, I would be putting money on the mobile device to overtake the computer as the main shopping and payment device for e-commerce in the not too distant future.