By Rieva Lesonsky
How many times a day do you touch your smartphone? According to a survey taken late last year by tech protection company Asurion, Americans check their mobile phones, on average, once every 12 minutes. And 10% of those surveyed check their phone every four minutes.
The reliance on mobile devices is actually changing consumer behaviors—not just in our personal lives—but in how we shop and buy goods. But this dependence affects you—every business owner needs to understand the impact it has on how, where and when you do business.
Douglas Wang, the Director of Global User Design at Alibaba.com, addressed this new business paradigm during his Global Trade Goes Mobile seminar given at CES. Wang says everyone’s days are occupied by their smartphones and tablets. And this especially applies to business owners. Wang says, “If you commit to a business, you’re committed to your mobile device.”
Alibaba.com noticed the shift by its users. In 2014 12% of the traffic to the website was from mobile devices, 82% from computers. In three short years, these numbers changed with 51% of site traffic coming from mobile and 49% from computers.
The change in buyer behavior is even more startling. In 2014 8% of active buyers accessed Alibaba.com via mobile, while 92% came via computers. In 2017, 57% of buyer used mobile devices to access the site, while computer users have decreased to 43%.
As a response Alibaba.com is encouraging buyers and sellers to download and use its mobile app. Wang says since everyone is on mobile now, Alibaba.com has instituted a mobile-first strategy. Plus, Wang adds, the mobile experience is an enhanced one. “A phone,” he says “is a fast tool for getting information. You can get answers to an RFQ (Request For Quotation) in 24 hours, and start global trade with anyone in the world [using Alibaba.com] within one week.”
Part of the reason for this shift is generational. Millennials are wedded to their smartphones and tablets. In 2017 the buyer demographic breakdown shows:
Ages Mobile users
That’s the power millennials have to impact businesses. To further appeal to this market (and to help all buyers and sellers) Alibaba.com has added some new features. One allows buyers to follow some suppliers in feeds, and grow a relationship with them. Order fulfillment is updated in real time and pushed to buyers, so you don’t have to waste time searching for this data. And Wang says, short videos are a very strong tool for suppliers right now, enabling them to show their products.
Mobilizing Global Trade
Another advantage of mobile usage is it offers buyers a better experience. Wang says it, “makes it easier to offer an upgraded personalized trading experience. As you play with the system it understands you, it remembers what you’re doing and makes suggestions. Using the mobile app is like having a buying assistant.”
As an example of mobile’s impact, Wang cites Singles’ Day (an Alibaba-created shopping day in China) when Alibaba.com generated $16 billion in sales (yes, in one day) and 90% of those were mobile transactions.
If you’re a small business owner looking for the next opportunity, you can use your phone to find out:
- What’s next
- What’s hot
- Regional updates
- What products buyers have been seeking in last six months
Mobile is just a part of the technological advances that are driving businesses. Alibaba.com broadcast a live stream during CES that actually increased sales for the featured suppliers. Advances in video conferencing and VR (virtual reality) are making businesses more productive. Wang says Alibaba.com has a strong foundation, and all these innovations are just new ways to utilize that foundation.
While he was referring to Alibaba.com, that’s sound advice for any business owner. How can you enhance what you’ve built, grow sales, add new markets? No business can succeed if it’s stagnant.
Wang views the new Design and Sourcing center at CES as “not a marketing event, but a marketplace. It’s a way,” he adds, “to bring the offline online and the online offline.”
As a mobile expert Wang says it’s going to get even better. With the coming of 5G in the next 1-2 years, he says we’ll see even more rich media being used.
And, as entrepreneurs, we have to take advantage of that. Wang says mobile users have higher expectations and less patience today. They want what they want, and they want it now. They expect to be able to consume in the moment.
That means businesses will have to deliver in that same moment. Wang says technology will enable us to do this. “We’re going to be wired 24/7, 365 days a year. We’ll have no concern about the cost of or consuming data.” That’s the way it should be. As Wang believes, “Data is like air, it’s a human right.”