IDC: Mobile Commerce Becoming Mainstream

Dec 15, 2010 — Allan Pulga

Six months ago, we pondered m-commerce’s ability to gain widespread acceptance (see Will Mobile Payment Go Mainstream?), but we also pointed out a key technological distinction in the m-commerce concept. Before smartphones, there was only e-commerce (online shopping via laptop or PC). Using smartphones, today’s consumers not only research and buy products online, they also process mobile payments – two very different forms of m-commerce.

Now, according to research firm IDC, having an m-commerce strategy (to allow research and purchasing via smartphone) is essential for retailers. “More and more shoppers use web-friendly smartphones in stores and malls to compare prices, seek deals, read reviews and make purchases,” wrote Juan Carlos Perez of Computerworld (Dec. 8).

“Mobile commerce is becoming mainstream,” said Greg Girard, IDC’s retail merchandise strategies program director, in Perez’s article.

“Retailers that are slow in optimizing their websites for mobile commerce and that fail to take advantage of the opportunities it offers will risk hurting their sales volume, damaging their brands and harming their relationship with customers,” Perez wrote.

In his article, Perez makes the following key points:

  • According to a recent Yahoo! survey, about two-thirds of smartphone users will use their phones to assist in shopping this holiday season.
  • A recent Google study found that more than half of U.S. smartphone users will use them to compare prices; 40 percent will look up product reviews.
  • People also use their phones to find coupons from sites like Groupon (see Coupons) and receive location-based rewards via sites like Foursquare and Facebook.
  • “Mobile commerce is disrupting the shopping process because it’s bringing offline and online shopping closer together,” Girard said.
  • According to a Forrester Research/National Retail Federation study released in July, only 20 percent of U.S. retailers had implemented an m-commerce strategy; 10 percent had begun implementing a strategy; 8 percent had only a strategy. The rest – 62 percent – were either developing one or didn’t have one at all.

As I’ve written many times before, whether about Twitter marketing or location-based services, wireless retailers are in an enviable position when it comes to capitalizing on m-commerce trends: You sell smartphones, maybe even the smartphone that a given customer is using as a shopping device. Therefore, you must do everything you possibly can to make m-commerce as simple and convenient as possible for your “m-shoppers.”

What m-shoppers are looking for (Juan Carlos Perez, Computerworld):

  • “We’re going to start to see the mobile device as a sort of augmentation of the online experience,” said Susan Etlinger, a consultant with Altimeter Group.
  • Retailers must optimize their online stores for mobile browsers and develop mobile shopping apps.
  • Despite the newness of m-commerce, consumer expectations are already sky-high, said Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Compuware’s Gomez division, which tests mobile apps.
  • Shoppers expect mobile sites to load quickly, if not faster than PC sites, Poepsel added.
  • Retailers with online and offline stores should offer a unified view (e.g. product variety and availability) across the two channels, Etlinger added.
  • Retailers should try to boost customer loyalty using mobile check-in apps (see Foursquare).
  • “The smartphone has become a personal shopping assistant,” said Dan Schock, Google’s retail industry director.

Topics: Retail Operations, Mobile Industry, e-Commerce

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