In five years, will tablets and smartphones surpass PCs in e-commerce sales?

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The gloves are off
The gloves are off


Will Klebenov, Director of business development at, more than 10 years of marketing experience

I have a hard time seeing how smartphones as they currently exist can unseat the PC as the dominant driver of e-commerce sales in the next five years. Anyone who pays attention to this business knows that it is a rapidly expanding segment of the e-commerce world. That said there are simply too many inherent limitations to the mobile experience as it currently exists for me to accept the idea that it will become the main avenue for e-commerce in the next five years.

Smartphones are an increasingly convenient way to shop. Mobile platforms offer consumers the ability to shop pretty much anywhere, any time. They untether us from our laptops and enable us to do price comparisons on-site. These are significant advantages that will drive the percentage of mobile sales. However, the current mobile platforms are also beholden to inconsistent network coverage, limited bandwidth and screen size constraints that do little to diminish the shopping public's trepidation about buying items sight unseen.

Of these the issue that is most likely to limit the growth of mobile is the inherent screen size limitation. Simply put, people like to be able to see what they are buying. Even if we are able to overcome the network issues that currently dissuade shoppers from utilizing their mobile devices for shopping we will still be faced with this limitation.

My business partner likes to tell the story of his conversion to mobile— he went out to grab some lunch near our office and walked past a construction site. He noticed that all of the workers were making use of their breaks to go online with their phones. After that he says he really started to notice the ubiquity of the smartphone.

Clearly mobile platforms have the potential to win some percentage of sales from the PC, but for the time being the conveniences of point-of-sale comparison and portability are at least partially trumped by bandwidth constraints and diminished image size.

That said I'm looking forward to seeing the evolution of this platform. Please, mobile device makers, prove me wrong: Innovate an unforeseeable set of innovations that smooth out the mobile shopping experience and make us wonder how we ever managed to get by using cumbersome desktop computers to shop.

But until then I can't see the explosive growth of mobile e-commerce creating an experience equal to the desktop shopping experience. Just as e-commerce has yet to obviate the need for brick and mortar stores, I see the eventual situation being a complimentary one and not one in which the mobile platform replaces the PC.

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