If you think e-commerce is the future, you're behind the times. In 2017, it's m-commerce that really needs your attention.

Not only has the use of mobile devices to access the internet risen sharply in the last few years, but so have mobile sales, as customers are more and more comfortable shopping from their cell phone.

This trend is set to continue, with mobile e-commerce expected to increase 50% to over $600 million by 2020.

Of course, being able to shop on mobile means more than simply being able to literally "shop on a mobile device." It means being able to shop anytime, anywhere.

This shift in how customers behave means that if retailers want to keep up, they need to alter how they manage their stores. They need to be "on call," essentially, to answer queries and address problems in real time. "It can wait until morning" just won't cut it anymore.

Thankfully, with the help of mobile devices and apps, it's easy to keep on top of what's happening with your store while you're on the move, too.

Here are five ways to more effectively manage your e-commerce store from your mobile device.

1. Use an e-commerce platform that's ready for mobile

The first and most significant step in being able to effectively manage your e-commerce store on mobile is to use a mobile-ready, mobile-friendly platform.

Shopify offers straight out-of-the-box mobile management. With the Shopify app, retailers can manage their product inventory, fulfill orders, and view traffic and sales figures, all directly from their mobile handset.

The app can also be configured to alert users via push notification when new orders are placed, and help store owners leverage customer data "on the go," thanks to easily-accessible order histories and detailed profiles.

2. Create an app

Better yet, create your own app. Well-designed e-commerce apps offer consumers a faster and more user-friendly way to shop. According to Criteo's State of Mobile Commerce report, "Savvy app retailers see up to 54% of their mobile transactions generated in-app."

In fact, Criteo also concluded that e-commerce apps "drive a larger percentage of shoppers down the purchase funnel and convert at 3x the rate of mobile web."

So what do high-converting "savvy" app retailers offer?

And they offer all of this in an attractive package that's ultra-intuitive and user-friendly, and makes checking out super simple (which is great for customers but even better for retailers).

Services like Shopgate and Appypie make building an e-commerce app really easy. Alternatively, Shopify's Mobile Buy SDK features sample code you can use to turn a mobile store into an app in a matter of minutes. Not only will this allow your customers to shop on the go, it'll be easy for you to track sales that come through - with orders, customers, and payments from your mobile app appearing just like your other sales channels.

3. Implement mobile live chat

Whatever you might think about live chat, chances are your customers love it.

So much so, in fact, that a study by Zendesk found that 92% of customers feel satisfied after communicating with a brand over this channel. This compares to an 88% satisfaction score on the phone, 85% over email, and 77% on Twitter.

Unfortunately, this satisfaction level is only achievable if you're equipped to answer your customers' live chat queries fast.

How fast?

The 92% figure is based on an average first response time of 1 minute 36 seconds.

Achieving that sort of response time is only possible if you're in a position to answer queries wherever you are. For that, you're going to need a live chat mobile app.

Bonus tip: In an ideal world, we'd all be able to offer 24/7 live chat support. Unfortunately for most of us, that's just not realistic. The most important thing is not to always be online, but to make sure that when you are online, you're in a position to respond to customers really quickly.

4. Utilize canned responses

Even with a live chat mobile app, chatting with customers while you're on the go can be tricky.

To reduce the number of replies you're forced to type out hastily on your phone, use pre-saved "canned responses" to generate generic phrases and answers to frequently-asked questions in a couple of taps.

5. Embrace outsourcing

Managing your store on-the-go is also about streamlining processes.

The fewer tasks you, yourself, are responsible for, the easier it is to ensure your store is being managed effectively - even when you're not available.

Take shipping fulfillment.

Where do you currently store your stock and who's responsible for organizing deliveries?

If your answer is "me" or "we do," you could be saving yourself a huge amount of time, effort, and space by outsourcing this part of your business.

Order fulfillment services will look after your stock, pack it, ship it, and when needed, restock it. Some fulfillment companies even work around-the-clock to ensure orders reach customers as fast as possible.

You can read about a number of different shipping fulfillment services here.

Other elements of your store that you might want to consider outsourcing include customer service (particularly live chat), social media management, and general administrative tasks like data entry.

Do you manage your e-commerce store from your mobile device? What tools and techniques do you use to manage it more effectively? I'd really appreciate it if you could take a moment to share your tips and experiences using the comments below.

Image credit: Brandwatch

Published on: Jan 3, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.