Mobile commerce has been a topic of great interest for marketers and businesses in the past several years.
And for good reason: with more and more consumers carrying increasingly sophisticated mobile devices with them everywhere they go, the potential to drive commerce in ways never before possible is fast becoming a reality.
There are numerous challenges, of course. The mobile device and OS landscape is highly fragmented, there are numerous security concerns and performance is absolutely crucial.
One positive companies looking at mobile commerce today is that there's little concern about being too early; the consumer demand for mobile commerce is no longer in question.
The latest evidence of that: a survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Placecast (PDF), which found that 39m Americans made an online purchase using their phone last year. That represents 20% of all mobile phone owners in the United States.
What's more: a growing number of consumers are getting interested in and comfortable with mobile commerce.
Of smartphone owners Harris Interactive polled, some 59% of smartphone owners indicated that having the ability to make a purchase using their device was at least "somewhat important", and 30% of all mobile phone owners who don't already receive marketing text messages from retailers said that they'd be interested in receiving them.
The figures for the actual use of a phone in a commerce-related fashion are arguably even more impressive.
Of those surveyed:
50% said they've used the GPS on their phone to locate a retail location in the past year.
44% had visited the website of a retailer on their device.
34% indicated they downloaded a retailer's app in 2011.
- 24% actively sought a coupon while in a store.
The numbers bode well for companies seeking to take advantage of mobile commerce opportunities -- opportunities which retailers in particular won't be able to ignore for much longer.
But they also highlight one of the biggest challenges companies face in tapping into m-commerce: playing all the angles right.
From making it easy for consumers to find you while on the go to mobile marketing campaigns to mobile-friendly websites that drive purchases, there are so many ways the mobile phone can drive commerce that covering all the bases can be difficult.
The good news is that with more and more consumers seeking to engage in some form of mobile commerce, many companies will increasingly be able to justify the investments required to make their m-commerce initiatives pay off.