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In the New Golden Age of Ecommerce, Social Collaboration is Key

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Mobile app usage grew exponentially in 2014, up 76 percent from 2013. Consumer use around retail and e-commerce -- via mobile -- doubled at 174 percent year over year (YOY). The shopping experience has taken over our phones, and the message has never been clearer: online retailers must fully integrate with the mobile habits of consumers to meet this growing opportunity.

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In 2014, mobile social media use grew 103 percent YOY. Brands and retailers have improved their ability to reach consumers in their social habitat but wider ecommerce must find ways to integrate and offer similar experiences. The key is to replicate the social experience by creating collaborative, accessible shopping environments.

Related: 5 Ways to Win Back an Abandoned Shopping Cart

Why are there no shopping apps in the top 15?

Smart mobile devices offer natural advantages over traditional web-based platforms and e-commerce as a whole could be taking more advantage of this by building shopping experiences with more robust social and collaborative features. As consumer behavior expert Nir Eyal puts it, mobile devices, despite their innumerable uses, are still fundamentally tools that we use to communicate. We've moved so many parts of our life over to mobile because it captures this innate ability of our devices to sync up with the people in our lives and make any experience more social. Ecommerce leaders could be taking more advantage of this by offering shopping experiences with more robust social and collaborative features.

Many apps have become perennial top-list makers by taking some functionality of your smart device and enhancing it by directly linking it to your contacts or social networks. The way that Instagram became a top 10 list fixture by transforming smartphones into social cameras, an app may come along and fully realize the potential of these devices to be social shopping carts. This is especially relevant now that Apple Pay and Google Wallet have already turned smartphones into payments devices. That there are no ecommerce apps in the top 15 shows that Amazon (#19) and eBay (#21) could be doing much more to integrate device functionality into their mobile experience. Pinterest (#20) is only in the very early stages of introducing e-commerce options, but is leveraging social functionality more than others on the list.

But social collaboration includes more than just importing your contact list or Facebook friends to share data on an app. It includes the creation of a connected experience between people where communication is sustained and tasks are accomplished as a group over the life of the relationship. Like Slack for workflow or GroupMe for friend chat, a social ecommerce app should help accomplish group shopping for those who regularly make purchasing decisions together and provide a platform for sustained collaborative use. Group shopping is often never completed because users can't sync up effectively due to their busy lives; however, mobile options allow group shoppers to finalize their carts wherever and whenever they want. Collaborative mobile retail could give shoppers a reason to stay in touch around shopping the same way other industry-leading apps give their users a reason to stay in touch on other life tasks.

Related: This Startup Wants to Make Shopping Online Even Easier

The collaborative social formula

The growth in consumers shopping on mobile is largely due to retailers like Amazon successfully creating experiences for mobile that do not trade down from, but add to, the experience on the main e-commerce site. Consumers shop on mobile for two main reasons that the web doesn't always offer: convenience and collaboration.

While market leaders like eBay and Amazon have successfully honed the convenience of using a mobile device to shop, the collaborative opportunity of the shift to mobile may get overlooked.

Manufacturers and developers have been enabling "social" capacity in apps and everyday appliances, including TVs, refrigerators, baby cameras, and thermostats that can tweet or post on Facebook, but these don't transform the experience into a truly collaborative one and therefore don't have much influence on the consumer. A primary driver behind the growth of connected devices is the desire to connect more of our everyday experiences with other people, not the desire to connect more of our devices to the Internet. Mobile still offers the most potential for the marriage of unforced social interactions and daily tasks, and m-commerce will continue to grow and diversify as more retailers take notice.

The future of collaborative shopping

Mobile, digital and social capabilities are evolving alongside consumer attitudes and habits, which includes digital shopping. This said, online retailers must fine-tune their strategies and offer experiences that are both convenient and collaborative to continue to appeal to a new kind of shopper. We may see a new golden age of the e-commerce marketplace if Amazon and its competitors continue to capture the inherent benefits of a mobile strategy in terms of both convenience and collaboration. They may have only scratched the surface of a much bigger opportunity to come.

Related: It's Time We Ditched the Term 'Cart' in Online Shopping

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