Digital commerce is mobile and content-driven

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher November 24, 2015
E-commerce is giving way to digital commerce, and the distinction matters. The problem is that very few companies have the mobile chops to deliver digital experiences.

It’s all over the Internet, you’ve probably heard it by now - Gartner has officially announced that marketing and digital marketing have converged, and it’s all marketing now:

“Digital marketing is now marketing in a digital world."

The worlds of offline and online are tighter than ever before, and nowhere do we see that more clearly than in digital commerce.

It’s about digital commerce, not e-commerce

Digital commerce is not e-commerce, and that's an important distinction to make. E-commerce is online selling - set up a website and sell your products and services.

Gartner defines digital commerce as:

The buying and selling of goods and services using the Internet, mobile networks, and commerce infrastructure. It includes the marketing activities that support these transactions, including people, processes, and technologies to execute the offering of development content, analytics, promotion, pricing, customer acquisition and retention, and customer experience at all touchpoints throughout the customer buying journey.


(image from Gartner)

According to Gartner’s study, digital commerce will have 11 percent of the marketing budget in 2016 (it was 8 percent in 2014), and it’s only going to grow. There are two reasons digital commerce is getting so much attention: marketers can now, and need to, show measurable results on digital marketing activities, and organizations need more than an ecommerce platform to sell (it’s more about the experience, not the product).

Jake Sorofman, research vice president at Gartner, said:

There was a time when marketing and selling were two distinct disciplines. In many cases, digital merges these two into a single, continuous activity from initial awareness, through engagement, conversion, transaction and repeat purchase. Marketers can now tie spending to revenue. In fact, it’s becoming a mandate.

Merging the physical and digital commerce worlds

Digital commerce also takes into consideration the offline sales experience as well as the online experience. The two are inextricably connected, thanks to the high usage of mobile devices in the shopping experience.

In the Demandware Shopping Index, which analyzes the activities of 250 million shoppers worldwide, it’s clear that the mobile phone is taking over as the device of choice for digital commerce.

The index shows that while the desktop is still the primary device at 48 percent of traffic, phones are close behind at 41 percent. Also interesting to point out that tablets only have 11 percent traffic. Cross-device shopping is up 14 percent year over year with the path typically desktop to phone.

Here’s why the phone is taking over so quickly in digital commerce. Consumers carry their phones with them everywhere, and they use them all the time: standing in line at a checkout, waiting for the doctor or the mechanic, riding on the train or airline. Shopping happens in those moments as well as on the couch at night, or away from the desktop on lunch break. Phones are even used in physical stores to price check, read reviews, get more product information, sometimes even make the final purchase (and not at the store they are in). As per Demandware:

Retailers take note, phone-first is not a luxury, it’s a requirement. The experience must be designed for mobile, which means quick load times, full-feature sites as well as symmetry across devices and into both your marketing and commerce experiences.

The Demandware Index talks about the “high degree of interruption when phones are used.” What does that mean? It means your mobile shopping experience needs to be frictionless. Your site must be easy to navigate, easy to read, and your calls to action must be right there with a single click.

IBM research corroborates this thinking. It found that consumer attention spans are shrinking. Average session length for October this year was 6:49. Two years ago it was 7:33. That’s a 10 percent decline that is only going to grow. IBM also found that bounce rates on mobile phones were 39.1 percent compared to 32 percent on desktops.

Creating engaging selling experiences

We know that digital commerce is growing and that mobile is a key channel for selling. What organizations are also now understanding is that online selling must be about more than listing products and having a shopping cart.

Creating an engaging experience is critical for digital commerce. This is in part, the content and commerce story that gets so much attention these days.

I had a great conversation with David Hillis, the VP of Business Development for Ingeniux, a web content management vendor, on the importance of content management for digital commerce. Consumers don’t like advertising he said, but they do like content related to the products.

Hillis talked about the importance of co-mingling content and commerce elements into a single experience. Some ways he said organizations do this is by managing promotions using articles and CMS sliders, and through native advertising as opposed to traditional banner ads.

Another area that Hillis says organizations are challenged is delivering these great experiences on mobile devices. The right mix of content with commerce on a small form factor isn’t easy to do. The content has to support the products sold, but they can’t overpower it, and the content needs to provide a way to get quickly to the product (or add it to the shopping cart).

My Take

I remember working on the e-commerce site for a big retailer many years ago. They were just diving into the e-commerce market and had a great site. If you looked at what that site was back then, you'd see there are still many retailers that haven’t changed from that model.

Mobile experiences aren’t great, and the content experience is dry. Mobile experiences don’t come close to the desktop experience for most sellers, and viewing the full website on a mobile device is frustrating at the best of times.

The e-commerce play is still the default for most. We have a long way to go before we see digital commerce in any perfect form.

Image credit: Young man shopping with his mobile phone © sdecoret -

A grey colored placeholder image