Why Merchants Need to Board the Mcommerce Train

Mobile commerce has gained serious momentum in a short period of time, according to Ernie Schell, director of the consultancy Marketing Systems Analysis, “and this stuff is changing in terms of days and months.”

During his April 6 session, “The Next Big Thing: Implementing Mobile Commerce in a Multichannel Environment,” at the National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment, Schell shared some insight on the current state of mcommerce.

Mobile buyers tend to be repeat purchasers, he said, and 51% of customers are more likely to buy from retailers with mobile specific sites. But less than 5% of retailers currently have specific mcommerce sites, according to a report by Brand Anywhere and Luth Research.

Schell predicts that two-thirds of retailers will have mcommerce sites within the next two to three years. “It’s all happening in the mobile world.”

Online shoppers making a purchase from their phones increased 11% in the fourth quarter of 2010, compared to the quarter in 2009, according to ForeSee survey results. One third of respondents used their phone to access a retailer’s site to compare prices or products.

EBay reported sales of nearly $2 billion in 2010—three times as much as in 2009 with apparel, accessories, cell phones, collectibles, jewelry and toys as the top mobile purchases. Schell said that last year someone bought a $240,000 Mercedes-Benz from eBay with a phone. Perhaps a sign of things to come?

Two-thirds of customers polled in an Adobe Systems survey said they prefer shopping via the mobile Web rather than via apps. The impact of mcommerce is undeniable, Schell said, but the unaddressed issue is its scalability, “especially if you’re just getting your toe in the water.”

Schell expects the following numbers to grow: 56% use mcommerce to find pricing information, 46% use it to compare products, 35% use it to look up price specifications and 27% use it to view customer reviews.

Smart retailers are supporting use of mobile phones to market their products, build loyalty and deliver advertising from coupons to circulars to commercials, Schell said. For instance, the Starbucks Card Mobile allows consumers to check their Starbucks card balance, reload the card, and view transactions.

Amazon.com customers can use text messages to find and buy products sold by Amazon. Customers can find a product in less than one minute and complete the purchase.

The customer sends a text message to Amazon that includes the product keywords, and Amazon replies with products and prices. Customers can buy the item by replying to the text message. (An iPhone application Amazon.com launched in 2008 allows customers to search for items using photographs taken by their phones.)

Many merchants have yet to tap into the mobile channel, but they will have to soon. And once you board that mcommerce train, Schell said “it will be a bullet train that ecommerce won’t be able to follow.”

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