Mobile commerce has come to the forefront during the 2011 holiday shopping season as a way for consumers to browse and buy anywhere and at anytime. Although m-Commerce purchases are a small fraction versus those made online, transactions completed via mobile devices are expected to reach $6.7 billion in the U.S. by the end of 2011, according to analysis by eMarketer, a digital marketing, media and commerce analyst group. During 2012, sales are expected to boost another 73.1% to $11.6 billion, the company said.
eMarketer indicated that m-Commerce is “on a steep upward trajectory,” with sales increasing 91.4% in 2011 versus 2010. According to the report, titled “U.S. Mobile Commerce Forecast: Capitalizing on Consumers’ Urgent Needs,” 97% of mobile subscribers 14 and older will be smartphone owners in 2012. The firm also forecasts that 37.5 million U.S. consumers within this age segment will make at least one purchase via their mobile phones during 2012, up from 26.8 million this year.
eMarketer’s findings are based on an analysis of data from research firms as well as overall trends in mobile ownership and usage. According to Jeffrey Grau, author of the report, the company defines m-Commerce as the sale of physical goods as well as travel and event tickets purchased via mobile. The research firm excludes digital downloads, usage of mobile phones as a point-of-sale payment mechanism in store, as well as purchases completed via tablet device.
Overall, 72.8 million mobile users will research or browse and buy items on their phones next year, making the channel a growth opportunity for retailers, according to Grau. “More people do research on their smartphones now, whether it’s scanning a barcode in store and receiving information, or comparing prices,” Grau said. “Some of these activities lead to purchases completed via mobile. As a result, some retailers are indicating that mobile shoppers account for a larger percent of overall sales.”
To keep pace with the growth of mobile commerce, retailers must understand their target audience and the information they’re seeking while on the go, according to Grau. Furthermore, retailers must tap into consumer behaviors and preferences to determine an optimal mobile strategy. Once retailers determine the information their target audience is seeking, an optimal call-to-action can be developed.
“Retailers need to think about the type of information they need to provide via mobile,” Grau added. “Each product is unique and has a specific ‘hook’ that drives attention and interaction. The smartphone is a convenient way to deliver this information, and can dictate the focus for retailers’ mobile initiatives. For example, retailers can determine more efficiently whether they’d want to develop an app or mobile-optimized site.”
Grau added that retailers must adapt to consumers’ mobile browsing and buying behaviors to succeed across channels in 2012 and beyond. “As more people bring smartphones into the store, it’s going to be less unusual for customers to ask store associates if they can match a competitor’s price,” he said. “In turn, retailers need to train associates with tools and tactics to serve these highly educated, empowered shoppers.”