When Will Mobile Commerce Be Ready for Primetime?

Mobile commerce offers great deal potential, but like many technology trends, it may take time to really catch on. If your business is looking to implement mcommerce, there are some important factors to consider beyond the technology. First and foremost, think about your customer, and the customer experience.

By Jeff Vance
Mon, February 11, 2013

CIO — Mobile commerce has tons of potential, but like so many high-upside technology trends (smartphones, tablets, cloud computing, social media), paradigms don't change on overnight.

mobile payments, mcommerce

Today, the mcommerce success story is Asia. In many Asian countries, people have skipped right over the PC era to the smartphone and tablet one. Thus, any sort of e-commerce in Asia is by definition mcommerce.

Even in Asia, though, mcommerce success looks more like what we're all used to than anything revolutionary. Mainly, you can order things out of vending machines from your smartphone, or you can shop from your phone or tablet instead of from your PC.

Research by Neilson commissioned by PayPal found that both Singapore and Hong Kong are experiencing spikes in mcommerce, but when you drill into the details, mcommerce in Asia looks a heck of a lot like ecommerce in the U.S.

Which points to one of the reasons mcommerce is failing to deliver on its lofty promise: mcommerce is tracking too closely to its ecommerce ancestors.

"When retailers built their ecommerce sites, they did so without talking to customers," says Eric Feinberg, senior director, Mobile, Media and Entertainment for ForeSee, a marketing analytics firm. "As a result, mobile wasn't a factor when they built those sites out, which was a big mistake."

According to Feinberg, only a small percentage of ecommerce sites--or any Websites at all for that matter --are optimized for mobile. As a result, when consumers visit a site and find it to be, say, a Flash-heavy pig, they'll bail before the page is even finished loading.

"Transactions over mobile can take longer than over broadband Internet," says Dave Berg, Senior Director of Product Management for Shunra Software, an application performance monitoring company. "Slow or under-performing apps, even if they do not slow the entire system down, will result in reduced sales and unhappy customers."

According to Berg, a performance delay of 250 milliseconds is perceptible to a consumer and a delay of less than half a second will cause a consumer to select one mcommerce site over another. After three seconds, 40 percent of users will abandon a mobile site if it has not loaded. After 10 seconds, 60 percent of mobile users will not only abandon that site or app, but also never return to it again.

"One bad performance experience and the mobile user has left your business for the competition," Berg says.

Mobile POS Systems Provide a Bridge

Those who believe that mcommerce is indeed living up to expectations will point to things like Square and payvia. These solutions allow small businesses to turn their smartphones or tablets into mobile point-of-sale (POS) solutions, giving Mom-and-Pop stores the ability to accept credit card payments without investing in expensive hardware and service agreements.

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