Over the last few months I’ve been advising some of the players in the mCommerce space, attending industry events (Xconomy- Mobile Madness) and talking to leaders in the industry. There are some big business issues I’d like to highlight in this post that are worth considering as you shape your Mobile Commerce strategy whether you are an SMB or a larger enterprise.

Speed of Change

First a few statistics you may or may not be aware of:

  • US online retail sales and growth – 2010 $152.1Bn forecast by Forrester to rise by 12.5% to $171.1Bn in 2011. Biggest category apparel, accessories and footwear at $34Bn.
    and from Milo.com:
  • 69% of retail execs see mobile commerce (mCommerce) as a top focus in 2011 up from 28% last year
  • 8.8% of retailers currently have an mCommerce site but 75.9% expect to launch one and most in the next 12 months
  • 37% of US smartphone users have purchased goods on their handsets in the last 6 months
  • Total US purchases using a mobile device excluding travel grew from $396m in 2008 to $3.4Bn in 2010!
  • By 2015 shoppers globally expected to spend $119Bn on mCommerce (8% of total e commerce)
  • Paypal mobile transactions have rocketed from $25m in 2008 to over $500m in 2010.

Business Issues and Players

  1. What is your mCommerce strategy?

    It is essential to stand back and review your mobile strategy whatever industry you are in and whatever size of enterprise you manage. What are your objectives and what customer experience would you like to achieve. Compare the early days of the web when web sites were just brochureware. Same thing is happening today where mainstream websites are imported to the mobile paradigm resulting in horrendous customer experiences. It is a whole different ball game optimizing a web site for the smaller screen and issues such as bandwidth and security need to be factored into your strategy. New companies are appearing all the time to make it possible to navigate the smaller screen eg Mellmo’s Roambi app transforms the visualization of info on your screen, without it you are looking at a spreadsheet through a straw. Check out MobiSiteGalore for mobile web sites and Roam Data to start to understand possible ways forward.
  2. How will you capitalize on mobile technology for your Events & Meetings? Why distribute copious volumes of paper documents when you can manage the event using mobile technology. Schedules, directions, speaker details can all be deployed straight to attendees phones using SwiftMobile type technology. Check out this great free white paper .
  3. How will you deploy internal apps to your workforce? The bar has been set very high. Consumers expect beautiful user interfaces, easy to use, fast apps. Therefore you can’t expect adoption of a crappy app deployed to your workforce on their mobile device. The world of B2E (Business to Employees) will take off in 2011 as enterprises adopt smartphones and iPads to create a competitive edge. Check out Apperian who manage the deployment of apps for enterprises to ensure it is a seamless and effective experience.
  4. Do location based mobile apps offer your business ways of boosting sales? The idea of checking into a local Starbucks or any retailer and earning special badges is developing fast into interesting offers and rewards. Brands like Foursquare have hit the mainstream press with large VC investments chasing the next big thing. It seems a little thin in terms of value proposition. However Murphy USA a gas retailer with 1000 style kiosks ran a pilot promotion using Whrrl’s geo- social network with great results. 44% of people checking in through Whrrl had never been to a Murphy station before. Checkout Foursquare, Loopt, Gowalla, Whrrl and Scvngr to review whether location based apps could work for you.
  5. How do you enable mCommerce on your workforce and your customer’s mobile device? The tech sector have been promising the holy grail of virtual wallets and turning any mobile into a point of sale device for years. Well it’s happening fast at last but caution is needed to separate the wheat from the chaff. Issues to ask of any supplier should include: device agnostic – their technology really must work on all or nearly all devices, security – you need to demand army level encryption, the data is too sensitive and with payments passing through the network it is key to understand the risks, legacy integration – how will your back end  inventory control system integrate with your mCommerce applications on the device and finally app deployment and maintenance – can changes and enhancements be deployed seamlessly and instantly with no degradation in service. Three of the four big mobile operators have come together to form Isis a mobile transaction network with support from Discover and Barclaycard. Smaller players with deep pedigrees like Roam Data, BilltoMobile, Boku and Zong are appearing in this space with unique technologies and experience. Roam for example is successfully partnering with Intuit to offer SMBs an attractive service. The Direct Selling industry has also tapped Roam for practical solutions to their mobile workforce. Isis is backed by Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile USA so I guess that’s now 2 of the big 3 not 3 of the big 4! AT&T rolled out in October a mobile payment trial enabling 93 million US subscribers to charge music, movies and virtual goods directly to their bills using mobile numbers instead of credit card numbers.

So there is a lot to think about and I’ve only scratched the surface on some of the issues but as Giselle Tsirulnik senior editor of Mobile Commerce Daily writes, ” for those starting down the mobile path, the most important thing is to stay focused and enter the channel based on metrics and data”.