An increasing number of us use our smartphones and tablets to shop, not only online but also in store.
The meteoric rise of smartphone ownership is driving major interest in m-commerce. Instead of whipping out the bulging wallet, customers are reaching for their phone instead, using it to pay for an increasing number of virtual or physical products and services.
Anyone who's used their phone to buy an item in an Apple store will have experienced the odd thrill of avoiding cash registers and merely walking out the door after a couple of clicks of a smartphone app. But, how mainstream will m-commerce become? Will it really compete with cash and cards, and should your business take notice?
Mobile eCommerce grows
ABI Research predicts that more than 24 per cent of e-commerce revenue will come from mobile devices by 20171. Yet many retailers still make it difficult for customers to find and pay for products on mobile. Some websites are also still not optimised for mobile, driving customers back to the computer (or to a competitor) to complete the transaction. If you have an online store, now is the time to ensure it is quick and easy to use, whatever the device.
Pinch zoom on a smartphone is not a fantastic experience when trying to complete a lengthy checkout form and enter credit card details. One alternative is to allow simpler payment options, such as PayPal. This makes it easier for customers to check out with a couple of clicks without the need to create accounts and enter lengthy credit card details.
Other e-commerce businesses are tackling the issue by developing mobile apps designed to make best use of the device. These apps reformat the information clearly and allow for greater usability on a small touchscreen.
The virtual wallet
Virtual wallets are also becoming more common - turning your smartphone into a quick and easy payment device through the use of NFC (near field communication) technology.
For example, Google Wallet (for Android phones) allows you to store your debit, credit and loyalty card information in a secure account and make easier payments with a simple tap of an NFC terminal at the checkout. It also allows store promotions to sync directly to the device2.
Forrester Research reported more than 80 million NFC devices would ship by the end of 20123. With the Apple iPhone still not supporting NFC technology and consumer awareness and education still very low, mainstream uptake could be slow.
If a device or technology makes an everyday task even a little bit easier, it will eventually take hold. We think nothing of using ATMs today, but when first released there were panics about the security concerns. The same happened with the arrival of online banking, yet most Australians now routinely carry out bank transactions this way4.
Human behaviour always defaults to the path of least resistance - and m-commerce will be no different.
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This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Jonathan has worked within, and written about, the technology industry for many years. Before going freelance as a writer in 2012, Jonathan had worked for Netregistry (web hosting) and Ninefold (cloud computing). Jonathan has won awards for his articles on online business for Nett Magazine and his over-opinionated blog Atomik Soapbox. He continues to write for Chief Content Officer magazine.