M-Commerce: Adopt and Adapt

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ADOTAS – According to CTIA – The Wireless Association, there are more than 300 million wireless subscribers in the U.S. as of 2010 – a figure that translates to more than 96% of the total population of the U.S.  That means that beyond wallets or purses and keys, there is one item that just about every potential consumer always has on their person: a cell phone.

Whether it’s a plain feature phone (your basic flip phone with dial pad, color screen, SMS capability and not much more) or a smartphone (such as an Android or iPhone device), those 300 million Americans are generally loath to leave home without them. This level of penetration has grown 10-fold from just 15 years ago, and retailers and others are finally sensing that reaching customers via mobile makes good business sense.

Data has shown that consumers doing mobile search intend to make a purchase within 24 hours of that search. Creating an easy shop-and-purchase experience from the mobile device is therefore critical to connecting with users in this mindset, and mobile commerce, or m-commerce, is fueling many new developments in the space:

We probably won’t see widespread implementation of NFC through mobile in the U.S. until 2012, but consumers are looking for an easy shop-and-purchase experience today. Seemingly a vision from our smartphone-saturated future, NFC often has a psych-out effect on the scope of today’s mobile creativity.

For the most part, brands have focused on delivering the right mobile content and rewards like coupons and loyalty programs, but many companies see m-commerce as a whole separate discipline rather than an immediately accessible tool. As a result, they’re often not taking advantage of it in their existing programs, missing the next logical step in engaging with the mobile consumer who hunts for content relevant to her needs and desires.

Two giants in the world of Internet commerce, Amazon and eBay, have successfully transitioned their online experience to the mobile device, showing others a path forward. Besides moving from desktop to smartphone, there are other ways for brands and retailers to capitalize on m-commerce right now without extensive platform transitions:

SMS and QR codes. No longer just a way to drive your audience to content, SMS and QR codes can be utilized to allow consumers to create shopping lists that can be saved and purchased via traditional e-commerce portals.

For example, feature products on a traditional out-of-home media touch point, such as posters or point-of-purchase displays, then give each product a unique QR code that, once scanned, relays product info and enables you to add that product to a shopping list, or purchase directly from your phone.

Opt-In Product Push. Retailers and brands can push custom products (especially fast-moving goods like soap, detergent, etc.) to users via SMS to those who have opted-in to receive such messages – and also streamline the purchasing process.

For example, text “needdiapers” to 12345 and you’re immediately linked to a secured checkout screen – with credit card and shipping info already pre-loaded – and all the user has to do is confirm and purchase.  Allow the user to adjust the frequency with which he or she receives such messages.

Non-retail affiliated e-commerce sites. That is, retailers not named “Walmart” or “Target” – should lead the m-commerce initiative.  These e-commerce-based companies would probably increase sales by triple digits if they developed mobile sites.  Having properly rendered m-commerce capabilities would alleviate the “appointment” necessary to purchase online from a PC, opening up a substantial amount of buying opportunities.

For retailers and brands, now is the time to adopt m-commerce. There are practical ways to implement m-commerce functionality right away at scale. And while we’re still in m-commerce’s infancy, there’s little doubt that it will explode.  The message is simple when it comes to m-commerce: adapt. Or get left behind.