In 2015, for the first time, Google requests from mobile devices outnumbered personal computers. That same year, several mobile operators in Ukraine were given 3G quotas, improving the connection offered in their user service packages.

These two events have largely determined the trajectory of Ukrainian e-commerce for the past few years. Consumer preferences have changed accordingly. In the mid-90s, Ukrainians shifted en masse from television to desktop. Today, smartphones are becoming the country’s favourite screen. According to research company GFK, in 2016 users prioritised mobile over desktop, leaving TV in the statistical dust.

Because of Chinese manufacturers offering advanced phones at acceptable prices, one in three Ukrainians already own a smartphone, and soon it will be one in two.

Since 3G came to Ukraine, there has been a 40% increase in traffic handled by the key mobile operators, and by 2016 the number of mobile internet users rose to exceed 8 million people per day, representing 40% of the country’s entire online audience. The advertising market reacted to the growth trend by increasing mobile budgets 400% by mid-2016.

Changing user behaviour

The US mobile advertising market is currently experiencing a breakthrough as it switches from static banners to video content. Ukraine is growing at a slightly slower pace, but the trend is no less evident. Mobile video is perfect for the “light TV viewer” category – people who rarely watch traditional television. The next step is an influx of video advertising consumers from desktop to mobile. In 2016, desktop traffic seized growth in Ukraine for the first time, in contrast to mobile traffic.

There is now a separate class of users – around two million people – who access the internet exclusively from mobile devices, and that number will potentially double in 2017. These consumers can’t be reached through desktop promotions, which means businesses risk losing a massive chunk of their audience.

Growing your business on mobile

Advertising investment has increased, but the question of conversion rate remains open. Some are skeptical about the effectiveness of mobile marketing, pointing to Google Analytics data showing conversion rates of 2-3% in mobile campaigns, and want to dismiss the platform as inefficient and reallocate their mobile budget to other channels within the overall marketing mix. But that would be a huge mistake – the conversion rate is low not because the channel is ineffective, but because Ukrainian businesses have not adapted properly to mobile.

The is a fundamentally different way of communicating with your audience and a different model for building a brand. Advertising needs to be tailored specifically to mobile’s micro-moments. These are close to instant Google search requests: Which cafe is offering a discount on cappuccinos today? Where can I buy a child bike within a two-kilometre radius? A smartphone is basically a multifunctional personal computer we use to receive various kinds of information of interest to us in a split-second.

The next step in the transition from desktop to mobile marketing is the communication platform itself. This could be a website tailored to mobile devices or a mobile app. Most businesses tend to go for applications; firstly, because it can be launched from a desktop, it’s easily identified by its own individual icon and provides valuable insight into user activity. Secondly, an app does not require access to a mobile network and is integrated with the telephone’s operating system. On average, there are up to 30 apps installed on each Ukrainian’s smartphone, 10 of which are in constant use. It should not be forgotten that it is the mobile website that underpins the manufacturer’s promotion strategy, whereas the app is a more convenient tool for an already loyal user.

In both cases, the efficiency of the selling platform is driven by its optimisation for mobile devices and the simplicity of the conversion process. 77% of buyers entering a non-optimised website leave it without making a purchase. The answer is to optimise without making things complicated – leave out the questionnaires, complicated forms and superfluous questions.

More changes to come

Analysts maintain that at the current pace of growth of mobile internet, Ukrainian search requests from mobile devices will overtake desktop requests in the next 12-18 months. Mobile is no longer a narrow niche for business; it’s a device that will dictate the future. The improvement of today’s poor conversion rates is only a matter of time and the pace of adaptation to the needs of the mobile audience is moving faster.

In more developed countries, mCommerce already accounts for roughly 25% of all business. Amazon recently carried out a test launch of Amazon Go – a store with no tills, no salesmen and no queues. The only thing customers need to shop are their smartphones.

Technology is rapidly transforming the world and business. Whether you are conservative or you seize the opportunity, this change is up to you.