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


King Hill, SVP, digital strategist at Marcus Thomas, 29 years of marketing experience

Asked to predict the future of digital at my first company in the mid-90s, I'd say, “If you've seen it on Star Trek, it'll probably happen soon.” Switch Star Trek to The Matrix and the principle is no less true today.
However, there more workaday reasons why we can expect smartphones and tablets to replace PCs as the top online commerce destination:

  • People are less deskbound. According to Cisco, by 2016 the number of mobile devices — over 10 billion — will top the number of people.

  • Small is the new big. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that computers are getting smaller and more powerful. The Compaq PC in 1982 weighed 28 pounds. The iPad 2 weighs under a pound and a half. Guess which has more computing power?

  • For many, mobile is their only access to the Internet. Already in 2011, a Pew study found over 28% of the U.S. population used a mobile device as their primary access to the Internet.

  • E-commerce is expanding. eMarketer predicts online sales will grow by nearly 45% over the next four years. New converts to online shopping will expect handset access.

  • Mobile transactions — everything from online shopping to banking — are already booming. Yankee Group, a leading mobile research and advisory firm, estimates that the value of all global mobile transactions will approach $1 trillion by 2014.

  • Mobile devices may even replace the wallet. The PayCloud mobile wallet and a variety of products from Google and others, plus emerging near field communications devices, suggest a growing trend.

  • Commerce loves impulse and impulse loves mobile. Why pull out your wallet when your phone is already in your hand?

  • Tablets present shopping cart content very well, minimizing any hurdles that previously existed in a mobile shopping environment.

  • Mobile devices can serve the role of a desktop or laptop PC, but not the other way around. People gravitate to the devices that help them the most.

I can only imagine a similar question back in the early days of credit cards. “Will credit cards outpace cash as the currency of the future?” I think we know how that worked out.

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