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The mobile market is expected to explode in the coming years thanks to the popularity of smartphones. But for the market to really take off, retailers need to get comfortable selling their wares in the space.

According to an eMarketer survey released this week, that hasn't happened yet. The new study, “Mobile Commerce: Ahead of Its Time," shows that while 70 million American consumers will access the mobile web from their phones this year, retailers are hesitant to sell products to them. That ought to change over the next year.

ReadWriteWeb says that mobile e-commerce is struggling. But is the market really struggling? Or have retailers just not yet been convinced that mobile commerce is an area they need to be in?

Mobile commerce is still a nascent market. In 2008, only 7% of online retailers had an m-commerce site, according to an Internet Retailer survey. And in May, only 26% of eMarketer respondents thought it was very safe to make purchases on a mobile device. Now, just a few months later, people are making all sorts of purchases on their phones.

According to eMarketer, 58% of their survey respondents purchased digital content from their phones. 51% bought consumer electronics, 37% bough computer related items, 36% bought books and 31% bought clothes.

Overall, 71% of consumers are comfortable making purchases on their cellphones according Harris Interactive.

The problem isn't consumers, it's that retailers aren't in the space. And they have some good reasons.

Retailers cite cost, privacy concerns, security and PCI compliance as the top obstacles keeping them out of mobile commerce.

According to Jeffrey Grau, eMarketer senior analyst:

“A number of retailers and third-party developers have introduced mobile apps that give consumers powerful new shopping tools and added convenience. But most retailers are either standing on the sidelines or in the midst of planning their mobile commerce strategy.”

Consumers are still much more likely to surf the Internet and use apps than make purchases on their phones. But some of that has to do with what purchasing options are available to them. Because consumers are getting more comfortable with handing over their credit card info on their phones.

According to eMarketer, many consumers are happy to pay for convenience items on their phones. 59% of respondents said they would purchase pizza, 58% said they'd buy tickets. Hotel rooms (43%), fast food (42%) and music (41%) were also high on the list.

There are more than a few hurdles standing between retailers and mobile earnings, but considering how new the space is, that only makes sense. Sitting on the sidelines until some of the mobile usability questions are answered is fine, but consumers can't be blamed for not trusting the space when the brands they like and trust aren't there selling to them yet.

Image: eMarketer

Meghan Keane

Published 4 September, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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