While most of us have become quite comfortable with e-commerce – the number of retailers begging us to come into their physical stores instead of shopping only on their websites is a testament to this – fewer of us have fully embraced what’s known as “m-commerce.”
M-commerce is e-commerce over a mobile device. While most tech-savvy people have done some shopping on their smartphones or tablets – buying a song or an e-book qualifies – we haven’t quite gotten to the point where we’re happy to shop for jewelry, clothing or other popular items from our phones.
We’re getting there, though. While the 2012 numbers may not be in yet, Forrester Research predicted last year that mobile commerce was expected to reach $10 billion by the close of this year. The report, “Mobile Commerce Forecast: 2011 to 2016,” predicted an annual compound growth rate of 39 percent for mobile commerce over the next five years. The growth is being driven by consumers who are purchasing more products and categories on their mobile devices, reported Mobile Commerce Daily.
More and more people are using their mobile devices to shop now that merchants are attempting to make it easier for them with mobile apps custom designed to make it easier. In the earliest days of m-commerce, shoppers had to make do with a slightly sized down version of the company’s website…shoppers did a lot of squinting and touching the wrong spot on the tiny screen, which made it largely an exercise in frustration. Today, however, merchants are designing mobile apps that take into consideration the screens’ small sizes.
But they’re also going beyond that, adding touches that are unique to the mobile experience. The blog eConsultancy uses the example of Ice.com, a Web-only jeweler that uses “reality technology” to help the mobile shopper. The ice mobile application offers a unique “try on” feature: shoppers can tap the screen on the product page and the application lines up the photo of the ring or bracelet on the shopper’s finger or ring using the mobile device’s camera. (While it’s clever, this could be tricky with a sweater or pants, however.)
Japan’s Panoplaza offers a virtual retail shopping experience, allowing users to navigate to different shops via a 3-D panorama of a virtual “mall” and examine virtual shelves. It’s a cloud-based tool that allows merchants to customize their shoppers’ online experience. Other popular sites that have turned m-commerce onto its ear include Pinterest, a site that allows users to essentially engage in virtual “window shopping.”
While m-commerce still has a lot of room to grow, one thing is clear: clever retailers will take what was formerly considered a disadvantage to shopping online – a small screen and interface – and turn these things into advantages.
Edited by Rachel Ramsey