The Difference Between eCommerce and mCommerce

A hand selecting an eCommerce product choice on a tablet device
Photo by Prepayasyougo on Flickr

It’s a popular question: What’s the difference between eCommerce and mCommerce today? Most everyone knows what eCommerce is: Online marketplaces and stores like Wal-Mart, Amazon, Target, and your friendly neighborhood mom ‘n’ pop shop. If you can order it online without entering a physical store, it’s eCommerce. mCommerce is simply one way of transacting an eCommerce purchase: It’s mobile commerce, which includes not just mobile phones but any smart and portable device including, by some definitions, laptops, which of course are also portable, if not necessarily something you can slip in and out of your pocket.

Therefore, the difference between eCommerce and mCommerce is that one is a subset of the other. mCommerce is a mobile way to shop and purchase from anywhere with an Internet connection – the definition of eCommerce.

Gartner predicts that U.S. mCommerce revenue will drive 50% of eCommerce revenue by 2017 and China will be at 55.5% mCommerce penetration although it will only account for a little under 11% of total retail sales. During November’s Singles Day this year in China, the world’s biggest online shopping bonanza, 82% of retail transactions were made over mobile devices. For North America’s Cyber Monday this year, mobile transactions accounted for $3.39B of total revenue, a new record

The difference between eCommerce and mCommerce means that from Amazon to Alibaba, from La Senza to Lazada, mCommerce mobile devices are how people are shopping in an increasingly eCommerce world. ‘Responsive’ websites that detect which device you’re browsing with and respond with a proper user experience is quickly becoming a requirement.


The two most important mCommerce elements:

  • Mobile optimization. Your online shopping site must be properly optimized for a wide variety of smart devices such as smartphones, tablets, and phablets (smart devices designed to offer a screen size somewhere between a typical mobile phone screen and a tablet screen). If an mCommerce visitor can’t properly view and navigate your eCommerce website easily and efficiently, you will probably never see them again. It’s just too easy to find competitors who did put the effort into accounting for what now will be more than half their website visitors every year.
  • As the world gets mobile, shoppers are going global. Singles Day expanded from China to other Asian nations this year and Alibaba plans to bring it to the rest of Southeast Asia in the next few years as well as to those of us in the West. Here in North America, Cyber Monday is already beginning to embrace other countries and not just English-speaking ones either. This means localizing your website not just to translate to other languages but to make sure it’s familiarized for each culture – British English being different from American English, Canadian French being different from European French, and being quite clear on the fact that they don’t primarily speak Spanish in Brazil, but Portuguese.

Related: Globalization vs Localization: The Difference

As eCommerce grows around the world, mCommerce has overtaken the fixed home or work desktop as the primary online shopping path. Mobile phone penetration is at 100% in the Philippines, 53.3% in China, 88% in South Korea, 77% in Australia, and 67% in Canada (Pew Research Center, 2015).

mCommerce provides numerous challenges to vendors who are still getting used to running eCommerce sites, particularly if they started out in bricks rather than clicks. Order completion (online shopping cart abandonment remains a primary sales completion challenge) and timely fulfillment and delivery are critical for mCommerce-optimized eCommerce sites. So are payment system choices which are fairly advanced in the West – credit cards and Paypal rule – but vary greatly in the East (Cash On Delivery in many places, along with its additional local currency headaches; a distrust of online payment processing due to fraud concerns, Paypal in some areas, local Paypal competitors in others).

Related: Three Keys to Success in the Asian eCommerce Market (White paper)

The difference between eCommerce and mCommerce is the difference between what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to accomplish it. With non-mobile desktops and laptop sales in steady decline and mobile device sales rising not just among the young but by older and more senior adopters too, eCommerce revenue will grow to the tune of $423B in North America this year, and $1.4T APAC (Asia & Pacific) growth by 2020. A variety of mobile devices will drive mCommerce growth within eCommerce and in order to take full advantage of it, you’ll need to optimize your online marketplace to respond positively on all mobile devices as well as to meet users’ language and localization requirements.


Old steam engine

Mobile: It’s a lot faster than it used to be. And better for the environment.

Photo by Rogers K 88 on Flickr



Yappn Corp is an enhanced machine translation company who found some great deals on Cyber Monday but not all of them were properly optimized for mobile devices and it was amazing how few of them were in a language other than English. For more information or for mobile optimization and chronic monolingualism rants please contact or call us at +1.905.763.3510 x246.


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Written by Nicole Chardenet, Sales Development Rep at Yappn.

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