The environment of mobile commerce
Mobile commerce is the simple act of browsing and shopping using a mobile device as opposed to online shopping using a computer. Consumers are taking the plunge into mCommerce with enthusiasm, but the businesses that they support are lagging in defining strategies to support this new frontier.
From the advent of the commercial World Wide Web over twenty years ago, to the growth in eCommerce, users have driven growth and constant change in these electronic mediums. In fact, the eCommerce Report forecasts that Australians will spend $20 billion shopping online in 2010.
Minter Ellison further predicts that mobile commerce, or mCommerce, will grow in part due to the global financial crisis as consumers look for bargains. Similarly, organisations unable to reach previous year’s profit levels are looking to leverage new platforms or technology. The idea behind this strategy is to look for ways to bridge that profit gap by being able to target a consumer group more efficiently, as well as making that shopping experience more efficient for these consumers^.
Yet despite this increased online spend and the exponential take up of mobile technology, an amazing 80% of over 400 eCommerce companies surveyed by SLI Systems have no strategy with regard to mobile commerce.
Creating a cohesive strategy as opposed to one-off tactics will be an important focus. This connection of multi channel approaches to market will connect both the in-store buying behaviour with the online experience.
Differences between browsing and shopping
There are those who only browse, and those who browse and shop using mCommerce. For the browsers only, a mobile presence can be crucial to drive these customers through the doors of your bricks and mortar outlet. Utilising mCommerce applications to compare prices, availability and store location allow your prospective customer to be on the move whilst sizing you up.
Those that are time poor also have the advantage that geography becomes unimportant and 24/7 shopping using mobiles now glued to their hands is their experience. These consumers do everything mobile.
Can mCommerce reinvigorate relationships with retailers that were sorely tested when eCommerce came about? Consider the plethora of mobile applications that now abound, creating again a feeling of connection and community that is not apparent via your computer. Social customer relationship management will become the norm for business utilising social connections to re-connect with their customers.
For each of these customer groups, there can be defining demographics and lifestyle preferences that organisations can use to create targeted offerings to connect more intimately with their customers on a level in which they are comfortable.
Native Mobile Applications and the Mobile Web
Imagine you have access to the web on your mobile device. Your screen allows you to type your address or use a search engine to find the shopping experience you are searching for. The good part of this phenomenon is that you have access to everything and anything on the web just as you would from your web browser on a computer. The negative is that the screen layouts, navigation and screen load speed would be designed for a computer screen and not a mobile. So whilst the Mobile web can give you access to all online store communities and is totally flexible, it can be cumbersome to utilise.
Your alternative in the mCommerce world, is to make use of the huge variety of specific native applications. These are designed specifically to work on specific mobile handsets. Native applications enjoy the distinction that they actively reduce the number of clicks to finalise a sale, have quick content loading and reduce the incidence of customers abandoning the sales process. Increasingly the benefit of this solution is for the customer, they will enjoy a well delivered, tailored shopping experience albeit somewhat limited.
Overall, both responses to mCommerce are useful and can be used side by side. This message has a positive impact for retailers, so needs to be considered for any overall mobile sales strategy.
Santa is on his way with a bright shiny new mobile device
Christmas shopping is obviously the busiest time for retailers, whilst this year may not yet herald in a complete commitment to mobile purchases, it will be the biggest in mobile commerce so far and will be a touchstone for those organisations who have factored in a tailored mCommerce strategy approach.
It is worthwhile for businesses to recall the growth in eCommerce in the last decade as it has become a mainstream sales channel, it would be naive to think that mCommerce cannot achieve the same this year and into the future.
Mobile phone manufacturers and application developers are spending millions of dollars and time investing in mCommerce, it’s time for retailers to join them in this new adventure.