Mobile commerce trends in the context of COVID-19


Mobile commerce use in Australia has dropped for the first time in five years. However, mobile devices still play a critical role in the customer purchasing experience. PayPal’s Australian Senior Director, Peter Cowan explains what businesses need to know.
The COVID-19 pandemic has found its way into almost every aspect of our lives, from the way we communicate and work, to how we shop, exercise and access services including healthcare and education.
With most Australians spending more time at home and no longer commuting to work, the way we use our devices has also changed. We’re no longer browsing our mobiles to-and-from work, and many of us are spending significantly more time on our laptops or desktops as a result of working from home. In fact, according to the PayPal 2020 eCommerce Index, almost a quarter of Australians are shopping more on laptops and desktops rather than their mobiles at this time.

PayPal Australia has tracked a steady increase in mobile commerce adoption since 2016. That is, until 2020.

Nearly three-quarters of Australians1 (73%) used their mobile devices to shop or make payments in 2019. This year, just over half of Australians (55%) are using their mobile devices for eCommerce – an 18% drop from pre-COVID-19 levels.
Despite this decline, being mobile optimised is still incredibly important for the overall customer experience, with almost half of Australians (49%) shopping on their mobiles at least once a week. That figure jumps to two-thirds for younger shoppers – Gen Y (66%) and Gen Z (65%).

Mobile devices play a key role in browsing, particularly among younger shoppers

More Australians browse on their mobiles at least daily (39%) for products, reviews or to save items in their wish lists than on a laptop or desktop (37%). While this difference is slight at a macro level, it is much greater for younger generations.  Two-in-five Gen Z (44%) and half of Gen Y shoppers (51%) browse their mobiles at least daily, compared to just a third (33% for both generations) that browse their laptop or desktop daily.
Gen Y are significantly more likely to prefer using their mobile devices (58%) for online shopping, compared to their laptops or desktops (41%). This is also true for women who are almost twice as likely (52%) to prefer shopping via mobile than men (23%). Meanwhile, almost three quarters of men (74%) prefer to purchase on their desktops or laptops compared to women at 45%.

Mobile shoppers are spending more despite the financial impacts of COVID-19

While frequency of shopping via mobile dropped slightly year-on-year due to the impact of COVID-19, online spend via mobile has increased slightly, as many payments have moved online and eCommerce adoption has increased overall.
In 2020, the average monthly spend via mobile is $272 – an increase of $2 YoY ($270 in 2019). The increase in mobile spend is particularly significant for Gen Z, whose average monthly spend has jumped a massive $52 from $207 in 2019 to $259 this year.

So, what are consumers buying on mobile, and why?

With COVID-19 restrictions driving consumers to seek the simple pleasures in life, it’s no surprise that Food & Drink (52%) and Health & Beauty (34%) have both seen a year-on-year uplift in the percentage of consumers purchasing from these categories. Meanwhile, Clothing & Accessories (51%) has remained steady, with nearly a third of consumers (31%) saying they are still spending on little luxuries that make them feel good.
But practical payments lead the list of mobile commerce by category, with Bill Payments the most common mobile payment for Australians (59%). In fact, over half (56%) said the main driver for using their mobiles is because it saves time when paying bills.
Interestingly, while fewer older Australians (68+ years) are mobile commerce users (28% of that generation), those that do use their mobiles for transactions enjoy the timesaving of bill payments via mobile more than any other demographic (71%).

Having a site that works on mobile is not enough – the experience must be seamless

According to the PayPal eCommerce Index, ease of use, security and trust issues have topped the list of consumer barriers when it comes to mobile commerce over the past five years, highlighting the importance of these mobile fundamentals for businesses.
Consumers have generally been patient with businesses as they move to mobile-optimised websites and apps. But their expectations are growing, and businesses must keep up. Over a quarter of consumers have abandoned a purchase or payment on a mobile device because it was too difficult (29%) or it took too long (26%). And, over half of Australian consumers (57%) said security and trust issues make them less likely to purchase with a business on a mobile device.
Mobile commerce is important, but getting it right is even more important for driving sales.

[1] PayPal’s research was conducted with 1022 Australian consumers over 18 years old who own a smartphone. Deloitte 2019 estimates smartphone penetration in Australia at 91% and Statista 2015-2022 estimates smartphone penetration in Australia at 71% For the purposes of extrapolation, this document has taken a mid-point for smartphone penetration in Australia of 81%.

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