Nowadays, it’s common to make purchases using anything found in your pocket except your wallet. For those who aren’t familiar with it, this trend of making purchases with a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet is known as mobile commerce or “m-commerce.”
“Today’s sales & service platforms are moving towards an application model, or apps, which can quickly improve performance and make business more efficient.” (Page 15 of How To Avoid A Storm In Your Cloud Installation, a free downloadable e-book from ClickSoftware)
Only a few short years ago, m-commerce didn’t merit a section on a pie chart showing the various channels of e-commerce. According to a 2011 Forrester Research study, in 2010, it was only 3% of the total, but at the end of 2011, it had grown to approximately 11% representing $18.6 billion in total spending. It’s projected to reach $31 billion in 2016.
The reasons for this growth are many. Almost every part of the mobile sector is influencing, and influenced by, m-commerce. Here are just a few selected factors going into the boom:
- Increased investment. Investors are funding mobile startups, including app developers, and creating new companies that drive significant growth.
- Infrastructure improvements. Mobile infrastructure improvements continue to make the smartphone experience more useful, efficient, enjoyable and fast. Where browsing experiences were to be slow and irritating, they are now quite acceptable on many networks. Purchase processes that would have been agonizing are now simple and clean.
- Increased mobile optimization. When websites were viewed on the first mobile browsers, it wasn’t a pretty experience. Now, with savvy website owners publishing simple, mobile-optimized sites, the browsing experience has improved by leaps and bounds. Purchasing activity has followed closely behind, as technology can now finally meet pent-up demand for smooth mobile browsing and m-commerce.
- Better devices. Smartphones and tablets with more robust features are keeping users increasingly engaged and active. In fact, within the next few years, mobile traffic and activity is projected to surpass desktop/laptop traffic and activity.
- Increased saturation. 54% of adults in the U.S. own smartphones, and this percentage is only increasing. What once was a novelty is now considered a must-have item by many. As feature-rich devices continue to be offered at lower and lower prices, we can expect that smartphone saturation will grow through reaching largely untapped market segments.
- Young consumers. Almost half of young teenage smartphone owners access the Internet primarily through a mobile device. Their high comfort level with smartphones is expected to lead to further acceptance of m-commerce and long-term increased spending. Most major e-commerce websites have bought into the "commerce everywhere" movement and are ready to reap the rewards of being mobile-friendly. From merely developing small-screen friendly websites, most players today have dedicated apps that enable seamless mobile access. There are some really compelling reasons for predicting that m-commerce will overtake e-commerce.
- Everyone Carries Their Mobile Phone All the Time The 54% of Americans that own a smartphone can access the Internet and a business’s m-commerce app all the time.
- Accessing the PC Is Cumbersome
E-commerce is soon going to be at the mercy of mobile devices. Everyone wants a social life and mobility. A desktop machine takes away from that while a mobile device integrates into that paradigm.
- The Phone Provides a Fast Way to Look Up Something
If a consumer wants to check the price, product description, image, review, or learn about related products, the phone is the fastest method.
- The Phone Facilitates Rapid Purchase
Shopping online is really fast using the mobile phone. There is no computer to boot up. In the case of dedicated apps, there is no browser to load and URL to enter. A lot of online shopping is driven by impulse.
- Mobile Devices Do Not Have to Be Tied to a Specific Location
Forget the days of customers running home to get online and shop. Those days are gone. Today they simply whip out their smartphones and shop wherever they happen to be. No one needs to travel across town to find what they’re looking for. Malls are for your grandma. M-commerce is for the next generation.
Linda Le is a business and tech blogger for various blogs and publications.