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Mobile’s Momentum Can’t be Overstated—Or Can it?

If you’re reading this on a desktop (or even a laptop), chances are your business is doomed to fail.

OK, maybe that’s hyperbolic, but from countless hours at the ShopTalk retail conference in Las Vegas this week, one overarching message emerged: mobile is where it’s at.

Furthermore, if this is news to you, you’re doing it wrong. Whether “it” is selling, marketing or communicating, mobile needs to be at the center of your business.

In her keynote centered around technology and meaning, HSN’s CEO and director Mindy Grossman began with a few universal truths. The first of which was: “Mobile is the new flagship. It is not a device. It is a destination.”

It’s personal, it’s omnipresent, and it’s a lifeline, Grossman said. And since it commands between three and five hours of our day, for some of us, it’s our most meaningful relationship. “And it’s an essential element of who we are in everyday life.”

This presence in our lives is even more pronounced in some parts of the world, as Lee McCabe, VP for North America at Alibaba Group, explained.

“China leads the world in mobile commerce,” he said.

We talk about digital natives. Well, Chinese customers are mobile natives. While shoppers in the U.S. evolved from physical stores to desktops to laptops to their phones, China went straight to smartphones due to the country’s weak retail landscape. “For the majority of people, the smartphone is the Internet,” he said.

The country currently boasts 700 million Internet users. While that’s twice the population of the US, only half the country is online.

What does that mean for retail? As you may have already heard, Alibaba’s Single’s Day raked in $17.8 billion in one day last year. What you may not know is that 82 percent of those sales were on mobile.

As Under Armour explained, mobile can play a key role in tapping into additional markets, including emerging areas like China and India.

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The company’s My Fitness Pal and Map My Run mobile apps, which together have 200 million users, are kind of ambassadors that collect loyal fans even before they can get their hands on the latest products.

“There are countries where we haven’t landed yet but the first handshake with the brand is a digital handshake through our apps,” said Sid Jatia, VP, ominichannel digital at Under Armour, using the company’s recent launch in India as an example. “So people are already acclimatized to the brand, and now they see the product on Amazon, it creates a nice synergy around how we introduce the brand.”

Under Armour also sees huge value in the consumer data gleaned from the apps, which it uses to direct product development and marketing. Given these insights, and the millennial adoption of all things mobile, the company has a new priority.

“We have to move from mobile-first to a mobile-only policy,” he said.

But before you can connect, let alone sell, on mobile, the technology has to work.

“We audited 900 thousand mobile sites and 70 percent loaded in seven seconds or more. That’s a lost sale. The threshold is two to three seconds,” said Michael Haswell, director of product partnerships at Google.

That’s why the company is encouraging retailers to invest in accelerated “amped” mobile pages and progressive web apps that are enhanced and work for every user, quickly.

Haswell also said many marketers have the wrong idea about mobile behavior.

“Apparel is our most searched category on mobile,” he said. “The same shopping journey we’ve seen offline is taking place on mobile. It’s not just about get me in, get me out.”

People are looking to mobile for inspiration so they browse a lot, he said, which ultimately could lead to a sale—somewhere.

“Sixty-four percent of smartphone users search for a product before going into store.”