E-commerce has dramatically altered traditional physical retail, leading to the birth of new businesses and the death of others that failed effectively to sell their products across the web.
Now e-commerce itself is en route for a major shake-up owing to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets as each generation becomes more sophisticated and capable than its predecessor.
The latest IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index revealed that online sales on mobile devices have grown by 52 percent year on year.
Online shopping through web browsers on laptops and PCs still contributes to the majority of online sales, but mobile devices are eating into that lead at a heady rate.
Adgild Hop, principal and head of retail consulting UK at Capgemini, predicted that internet shopping on desktop devices will soon become a thing of the past.
"What we've seen for the past few months is that the majority of e-commerce growth is coming from mobile," he told V3.
"If you strip away mobile, in particular smartphones, online is now a pretty mature channel, and there's not that much growth coming from traditional e-commerce.
Hop explained that a good part of this growth is down to how shopping on mobile devices leads to more impulsive buying than on static machines, propelling the number of sales completed through mobile devices.
"[Mobile] is starting to tap into less considered transactions when you're on the move. In the old days, if you were on the train or out for a walk, you might have thought about buying something but by the time you got home it might have slipped you mind," he said.
Miya Knights, senior research analyst at IDC, reinforced Hop's view, adding that technology advances, such as the increased rollout of 4G mobile data speeds and compatible phones, and adoption of customer Wi-Fi in stores, are accelerating the growth of mobile e-commerce.
"All of these trends, including larger-screen phones and a ‘mobile first' approach to digital development led by responsive design, mean that it's getting easier to shop online via mobile, whether at home, when out and about or in-store," she explained to V3.
Mission to mobile
The rise of mobile e-commerce means that retailers need to ensure that websites begin life as mobile sites or are based on responsive web design, whereby the site's content automatically adjusts to suit the device on which it is being viewed.
Google's search algorithm now favours mobile websites, and Hop said that the "writing is on the wall" for retailers that ignore the influence of mobile technology on online shopping.
Hop warned that companies risk falling behind more progressive rivals if they ignore the need for a competent mobile shopping experience.
Some retailers are trying to get ahead of this curve. Clothing brand Fat Face has adopted NetSuite's responsive web design to boost e-commerce on smartphones and tablets.
IDC predicted that retailers will increase spending on mobile technology this year, as more of them become aware of the maturity of mobile hardware and the evolution of e-commerce on smartphones and tablets.
"Mobile technology will continue to be a driver of major investment in retail as it applies to mobile application development and mobile devices," Knights explained.
Building on this view, Hop predicted that this investment and the continued growth of mobile e-commerce will have a profound effect on online shopping.
"I imagine it won't be long before the majority of transactions in the e-commerce space take place on smartphones," he said.
Technology trends may not be as pertinent as stock levels and product portfolios in the retail world, and so the need for a ‘mobile first' approach to e-commerce could easily go unnoticed.
But as the data shows this can no longer be the case, as mobile is not a trend to be ignored and retailers that do so may find that their e-commerce activity takes an unexpected and expensive nose dive.
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