What is the difference between eCommerce and mobile commerce?

E-commerce and mobile commerce might some similarities, but what is it that sets them apart? We’ll guide you through how they differ below...

Online shopping gives consumers the ultimate choice of where, when, and how they want to shop. Let’s say they want to browse on their commute, or pre-order their food shopping for when they return from a trip, then it’s a simple matter of making whatever purchases they need from wherever they are.

And within the world of online retail, this act of buying and selling goods can be packaged into one simple term: e-commerce. Essentially, E-commerce covers any products purchased through the internet – using any device with that has access to the internet.

However, as online shopping continues to develop, the concept of mobile commerce has taken on its own identity that’s entirely separate from e-commerce. So what’s the difference?

Our guide below will delve into the similarities and differences between the two concepts, as well as the importance of creating a well-functioning customer experience in both.

What is mobile commerce?

Mobile commerce (sometimes referred to as m-commerce) is a sub-category of e-commerce where online retailers can sell products through wireless handheld devices.

Whether it’s a tablet or a mobile phone, customers can truly purchase goods from anywhere at any time with just a few clicks of a button.

One doesn’t necessitate the other. Retailers can work within an e-commerce framework without specifically setting up mobile commerce – but it’s still important to remember that mobile commerce is just a type of e-commerce.

What are the differences between mobile commerce and eCommerce?

It might seem like a recent creation, but e-commerce was actually first conceptualised all the way back in the 70s, which therefore makes it the older, more traditional of the two terms.

Meanwhile, mobile commerce is relatively newer, with the concept first arriving in the retail world in the 90s.

Since both have only been around for a short amount of time in comparison to traditional retail, new ways to engage with and help their customers continue to develop. We can see this in the increased use of chatbots and AI – just some of the ways that all online retailers are constantly looking to improve on their customer experience.




E-commerce generally uses stationary technology like a desktop or a laptop to process transactions. While these can be moved around, they are not as portable as devices like mobiles and tablets that run mobile-optimised sites.

This portability is key for user experience. Customers can do their online shopping wherever they are at whatever time is convenient to them. Having access to a well-functioning mobile commerce site, whether that’s an app or website, is one way to boost sales and increase your customer base since people can do their shopping on the go, on their lunch break, or at during their commute – providing they aren’t driving, of course!

Thanks to Wi-Fi and GPS tracking capabilities, both e-commerce and mobile commerce can use this data to tailor marketing and product recommendations to customers.

However, m-commerce is much better at doing this, since they can ask customers whether they have permission to always track their location. By viewing the places they tend to visit, m-commerce businesses and sites can then use this data to personalise their customer experience even more.

In comparison, E-commerce retailers will generally only see the home location of the customer, meaning they don’t have the data to create more advanced customer profiles based on location.

Location Tracking

Adverts & Marketing

Online retailers can push their products with a wide variety of marketing techniques, but directly addressing the customer in their advertising is often one of the best ways to ensure they not only complete their purchase but are happy with it upon arrival. This kind of personalisation goes a long way towards one-time buyers becoming repeat customers.

Retailers with a mobile app or website can also send out push notifications to users, notifying them about everything from exclusive sales to sold out items that are now back in stock.

Making greater personalisation a feature of your mobile commerce strategy is important if you want to ensure you’re providing the best customer experience.

woman enjoying social media

What are some e-Commerce and m-Commerce similarities?

Despite the differences, these two concepts still share some similarities…

Constant availability

In keeping with the consumer need for constant availability, both e-commerce and m-commerce sites are open for business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This gives both types of online retailers the edge over in-person retailers since they usually can’t offer this.

Customers have an increasing desire to shop at times that suit them, and businesses are more likely to retain customers if they’re willing to cater to more unusual hours. Of course, as well as products being constantly available, you also need to ensure you have round-the-clock customer service solutions to attend to their needs.

man searching internet whilst looking for clothing
Gnatta Security

Security for customers

Data protection is important for any retailer, but it’s especially necessary for online retail. Customers want to be reassured that their card details won’t be stolen and that their payments remain protected, along with any other personal information they might share – like their address.

Both mobile and e-commerce can now provide multi-level authentication for customers completing their shopping orders – some devices can even provide biometric security measures like face or fingerprint recognition for added security. While this is mostly only available for mobile retail, certain desktops and laptops are catching up with biometric capabilities such as Apple’s touch-ID feature.

Extra security that is available to your e-commerce business is essential. Customers that feel as though their data is safe hands are sure to take their money elsewhere.

Different distribution options

All e-commerce provides different distribution options depending on what works for them.

While some e-tailers have a multichannel approach i.e., they use more than one channel to market the business’ brand, others take an integrated omnichannel approach which combines the channels to market them as one.

Both mobile commerce and e-commerce can use either of these approaches to optimise their e-tailer brand and tailor it however they want to. Multichannel is focused on increasing brand visibility and profits, while the omnichannel approach is focused on creating a deeper brand connection for the customer and creating a customer journey that ultimately leads to increased ROI.

If you want to know more about these approaches and learn what their differences are, then you can read up them at our guide here.


social media control graphic

Creating a mobile-friendly website

Making sure that your mobile commerce is keeping up with your general e-commerce is something that can sometimes be overlooked, but it will help to make a huge difference in terms of user experience.

For example, if a site has been optimised for viewing on a larger screen rather than a smaller one, it eliminates the customers that don’t tend to use larger devices for online shopping. This means fewer customers, and ultimately, fewer sales – something that no retailer wants.

So, while creating an app is not necessary, you still need to think about how different customers will view your sites.

Luckily, taking a site and making it mobile-friendly can be achieved with just a few tweaks, such as…

  • Making sure your website is responsive
  • Ensuring customers can easily find important information
  • Keeping it simple – don’t overload the page with excessive information, as this affects website speed
  • Using larger font sizes
  • Making button sizes large enough for mobile screens

The main thing to remember is that customers don’t want to use a difficult site. To get a better idea of your customers’ priorities when it comes to online shopping, why not read article revealing typical e-commerce customer frustrations?


Looking for customer service that really speaks to your contacts? Gnatta makes interactions matter, delivering quality exchanges and quicker responses that meet customer expectations. 

Get in touch today. 

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