IBM surveyed 500 online retailers in the United States late last month when the traditional holiday shopping season began after Thanksgiving Day. The company said year-over-year sales increased 24% from the same holiday in 2010. That’s excellent news.
However, the news was less inspiring for retailers trying to lure consumers to use their mobile devices to make purchases. According to IBM’s numbers, sales via mobile units were to 9.8% of the total sales. That’s good, but not great news.
Given the ubiquity of mobile devices, you would expect the number to be higher. On the other hand, given other factors, it’s less surprising. One thing that is clear, there is a difference in maturity levels in both mCommerce infrastructure and consumer behavior across EMEA, Asia, and NAO. Asia is certainly leading the pack in terms of willingness to utilize their mobile devices to make a quick payment or subscribe to a new mobile service.
In contrast, consumers in the U.S. are much less likely to use their mobile devices for online transactions of any kind than, for example, consumers in the Asia-Pacific region. A KPMG study reveals that in 2010 61% of Asia-Pacific consumers say they used their bank’s mobile application to conduct business online, while a mere 13% of Americans said so.
One big reason for Americans’ reticence to use mobile tools for online shopping is their fear of losing personal information to data thieves. Not only do they have the usual anxiety about security, they also are concerned that their phone number may become available to spammers who will bombard them with text messages and calls that literally cost them money in terms of data and minutes charges.
But, let’s face it, there’s more than security at play here. Consumers wishing to buy products and services via their mobile devices are often using websites designed for PC-based consumers. The m-commerce buying experience is given less attention by retailers than e-commerce efforts. According to a Forrester survey earlier this year, less than half of the retailers queried have launched a mobile strategy. And most of those are refining their work or simply beginning their implementation.
One other key factor in why U.S. consumers still prefer to shop online with their PCs instead of their mobile devices is performance. The purchasing process is slower for mobile users in the U.S. Part of that bottleneck will always be beyond a retailers control. Different WiFi, 3G, and even 4G services will vary from carrier to carrier, place to place, and from time to time. However, retailers can do much more in terms of designing their mobile applications to be more streamlined, more responsive, and attuned to the vagaries of wireless connectivity.
Mobile commerce will continue to accelerate, even in the U.S. But it will grow much faster for companies that build a specific m-commerce platform that satisfies consumers needs for security, experience, and performance. Companies that meet mobile consumer desires will be rewarded with loyal, paying customers as well as a better bottom line.