Mobile Revenues Surging for Companies Like One Kings Lane While Traditional Ecommerce Remains Clueless
On a recent Friday night, One Kings Lane CEO Doug Mack was passively monitoring his company's real time sales, catching up on some of that never-ending CEO work that slips through the cracks during a week of building a growing company.
He noticed some huge spikes in sales, and some uncommon buys, including a $17,000 vintage Hermes wallet. When he drilled down, he realized this was all happening on iPhones. That was the moment when it hit him: "The ceiling is absolutely gone," he said to himself. "People will buy anything on a phone at this point."
And they'll buy a lot of it. In June, mobile made up 22 percent of One Kings Lane's sales. That jumped to 25 percent in July and is up from basically zero two years ago. That 25 percent figure is almost exactly what Braintree -- a payment vendor of choice for high-end retailers going after mobile -- is seeing across its network too.
This possibly drunken wallet splurge wasn't a one-time thing. The ticket prices on mobile are higher on average, Mack says. Other phone splurges have included a $7,999 freestanding oval bathtub, a $7,499 Vintage Turban ring, a $7,249 pair of Napoleon III Blue Linen Bergeres, a $6,999 Lexicon Dressing Cabinet, and a $6,998 Darla rug. I don't even know what some of those things are.
Is drunk shopping the new drunk texting? Who cares if you're Mack, Ready, Uber's Travis Kalanick, Fab's Jason Goldberg, or any of the early wave of ecommerce companies who have aggressively tailored their ecommerce experience to mobile. What matters is when you do it right, people are spending and they are spending more and they are spending at a time that was previously an ecommerce deadzone. And it's just the beginning.
It's not just Friday nights. We're coming up on Labor Day -- the time when traditional etailers rejoice that summer has officially ended and people can get back to work... and hence back to shopping online.
One of the biggest impacts of ecommerce was extending shopping time into the workday to such a degree that we have the silly flurry of news stories around "Cyber Monday", the morning after Thanksgiving. What mobile has done is drag online shopping, not only into the weekends, but into vacation time. One Kings Lane was astounded to see that they effectively had no summer lull over the last few months -- that's directly tied to mobile growing as a percentage of revenues as the summer went on. "People are clearly taking us on vacation with them," Mack says.
On July 4, the percentage of traffic from mobile devices went from its already high 25 percent to 33 percent -- 40 percent higher than an average Wednesday. It's as high as 34 percent of traffic on weekends.
Check out a recent seven day period of One Kings Lane shopping, the desktop and mobile trends are essentially mirror images of one another:
In the evenings, iPad shopping surges relative to other mobile devices, as people browse from their living rooms. Why does the distillation of type of device matter? Because as the handful of vendors doing this right know, mobile isn't a catch-all bucket. In the case of One Kings Lane, the average order on the iPad was a whopping 10 percent higher than the desktop in July. On the iPhone, it was 6 percent higher than the desktop. The exciting thing about the iPhone is that it maximizes where people can shop, but the iPad makes them spend even more, according to Mack.
The implications of this are staggering to think about. Mobile commerce has both been over-talked about and under-hyped at the same time. We aren't witnessing another mini-trend like flash sales or subscription commerce. We are witnessing the birth of an entirely new channel, opening up dramatically new ways to acquire, delight, and get money out of customers. The impact will be equivalent to the birth of the catalog industry and the birth of online commerce -- maybe even bigger, Mack says.
Like the birth of ecommerce, this will not be a tide that lifts all boats. Think of what Expedia and Travelocity did to travel agents and what Amazon did to book stores. The carnage could be as great, and this time it's not bricks and mortar that will suffer, it will be traditional ecommerce vendors.
Mobile commerce is fundamentally different from traditional online commerce. Clumsy shopping carts and log ins aren't going to work. There's little patience to even type in a credit card number on mobile. The browsing experience has to be gorgeous, lush, richly photographed and simple. Like flipping the pages of a magazine. It's about curation, a deep understanding of who the customer is and guessing right at what they want. And it's about pushing in the right ways -- just enough that someone knows a new item is going on sale, but not so much your app gets uninstalled.
Traditional ecommerce was all about about cost-savings and convenience. Mobile is about entertainment. You have to revel in the fun part -- the browsing and discovery -- and make the unfun part -- paying -- as easy as breathing.
Braintree is a leader in ease of mobile payments, particularly with its recent acquisition of digital wallet Venmo. The company already enables easy, one-click purchases for existing customers. But thanks to the acquisition, it'll be able to offer one-click checkout between sites operating on its network. In practical terms, if you've ever paid for an Uber, you could click to purchase anything powered by Braintree without entering any personal details.
Can too little friction be an issue? All it's gonna take is someone's five-year-old opening up One Kings Lane and ordering five Hermes wallets to see the downside of Braintree's software. A few months ago we wrote about the next day hangover from Uber spending. But a $40 cab ride is nothing, compared to the semi-drunk sales some of the glitzy flash retailers are seeing.
The vendors I've spoken too aren't worried about a backlash of shoppers' remorse. They're too busy moonwalking all over the old ecommerce world, much of which doesn't even really realize the shift that's happening right under their noses.
I have no doubt some of our more sophisticated readers are thinking, "This is news...why?" But it's a very small percentage of the world that gets what's happening in mobile commerce. (It just so happens a lot of those people read us regularly.) But it's a very binary world in ecommerce right now. A handful of companies like One Kings Lane are seeing higher average ticket prices and experiencing banner holiday receipts. The rest of the traditional ecommerce world is still thinking about mobile in a theoretical sense, thinking they have time before consumers really want to spend money on phones.
It's not just that their sales could be higher. The trend is actively hurting them. On average 20 percent of traffic is coming from mobile, but the sales conversion is 75 percent worse. In another year, Braintree's Ready expects mobile to be 50 percent of traffic. Clearly, that's unsustainable.
What's more, Ready is astounded at how frequently he has to explain this to "tech" companies. He gives them the stats, and when they don't believe him, he tells them to check their logs. They frequently come back stunned. "Most etailers are totally ill-equipped to allow people to buy things easily," Ready says.
Given the challenges that even Facebook has had adjusting to a mobile world, I'm not too convinced most ecommerce vendors will make the shift even once they've had this a-ha moment. Mobile shopping is just too different from the way traditional ecommerce was created, and big companies can't usually change their spots.
Either way, in five years the biggest mobile companies will undoubtably be the new class of etailers. Just like the early days of the desktop Web, the ad markets just aren't there yet. No matter what device you are on, the easiest way to build a billion dollar Web company is still to get people to open their wallets. And that's getting even easier now that opening the wallet doesn't even entail actually opening a wallet.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]