JOHANNESBURG – Five years ago you would’ve been on the right track if you were launching a website for your business. If you’re still stuck thinking about computers when you imagine online engagement with your customers today, you’re making an almost “fundamental error”, according to Google South Africa’s country director, Luke Mckend.

“There are more searches on mobile in South Africa right now than there are on desktops or laptops and it’s been that way for almost 18 months. You have to make sure that your website is appropriate for viewing on a mobile device,” says Mckend.

In India, e-commerce business Myntra recently switched off its desktop site altogether. Sister company Flipkart now takes mobile browsers straight to its app, indicating it may go the same route as Myntra, Mckend suggests.

“If you can see that happening and you’re a business in South Africa thinking about building a website, you’re kind of dead in the water,” he comments. “Businesses have to re-architect themselves around a mobile-oriented environment.”

If you’re an insurance company, this means that an online application form with 50 fields is just not going to fly.

“Being relevant in a mobile world is not just about the front-end but probably bleeds right back into your fundamental business processes,” says Mckend.

For the insurer, it may go as far as changing risk assessment processes because its collecting less data, he adds.

“The ease of use and ability to make something intuitive and simple for the user is absolutely critical,” Mckend tells Moneyweb.

In 2014, online payments company, PayPal processed $46 billion in mobile payments, up 68% from 2013.

PayPal estimates that the average compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of mobile commerce between 2013 and 2016 will be 42%, while e-commerce generally will grow at 13%.

Research carried out earlier this year by Ipsos for PayPal, which investigated the online shopping habits of 17 500 consumers in 22 countries, found that a third of them had bought online via a smartphone in the past 12 months.

In South Africa, Ipsos, PayPal and FNB research found that of 105 online shoppers who owned a smartphone, half of them had used their phone to shop online, while 21% of the mobile non-shoppers expected to shop on mobile in future.

“Online shoppers may browse through a browser, but when it comes to actually transacting they go through an app. As more merchants develop more transactional apps, we will see more commerce happening through mobile devices,” says Sarah Clark, PayPal’s general manager for EMEA.

There are now one million PayPal accounts in South Africa, according to Efi Dahan, PayPal’s regional director for Africa and Israel.

PayPal has 173 million active accounts worldwide and processed 1.2 billion transactions in the third quarter of 2015.

This article was first published on Moneyweb

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