Mobile commerce is erasing the line between online and in-person shopping. I’ve been looking at the growth of this market and ways retailers are building their m-commerce future.

Retailers are seeing mobile shopping skyrocket. Mobile commerce sales in the US in 2008 were $400m. That number quadrupled to $1.20bn in 2009, and then doubled to $3.4bn in 2010. 

Growth for 2011 promises to be nothing but explosive…

Who’s riding the mobile commerce train?

According to a recent ForeSee study of nearly 10,000 visitors to the biggest e-commerce websites in
the US, over half of mobile shoppers used their phones to compare
price information (56%). Shoppers also used their phones to compare
different products (46%), to look up product specifications (35%), and
to view product reviews (27%).

Who among us hasn’t checked stood in a
bookstore and checked their retail price against Amazon, and perhaps
deferred a purchase by adding it to their “wish list”?

And for those of you following tablet computing, here’s the amazing part: visits to retail sites via the iPad outnumber other mobile devices, even the iPhone. Let’s put this in perspective, this device that entered the market just over a year ago is now a leading commerce platform.

Why the shift in user behavior?

In short, the combination of useful apps and easy, instant access to
information through mobile devices is ingraining computing in to new
sets of daily tasks in users lives. My earlier post, Did You Take That iPad to Bed With You?, describes this shift and the size of this opportunity in our industry.

eBay proves mobile makes sense

Perhaps the most well known example of turning mobile browsers into buyers is eBay, which launched its first application for Apple’s iPhone in July 2008 and
has since continued to ramp up its mobile commerce initiatives.

core iPhone application, which is available free via iTunes
in eight languages and 190 countries, has been downloaded more than 30m times and lets users browse and buy without leaving the

The eBay application for the iPad delivers a
tablet-optimized shopping experience to browse and buy a plethora of
auctioned items. Its suite of mobile applications, including Selling,
Classifieds, StubHub and Deals, are designed to make selling and buying
possible virtually anywhere, anytime.

The strategy works, eBay announced earlier this year that global
mobile sales generated nearly $2bn in 2010, up from $600m in 2009

The in-store experience gets turned upside down

Thanks to a number of new and innovative apps, the traditional
brick-and-mortar experience is getting revamped. For the better, in
my opinion.

Comparison shopping

Consumers have access to a number of apps that allow them to scan
product barcodes while in the store to look for pricing and availability
at competitor online and retail store locations. These include apps
such as Red Laser, Scandit, Shop Savvy,

The consumer now has real time information that directly impacts their
purchase decision and gives them real bartering capability.

example, I was in the market for a new mattress. I was able to pull up
price comparisons for the desired Simmons
Beautyrest Luxury Firm mattress, show it to the sales person and asked
“what can you do on your price? I’d like to give you my business, but
only if you can be more in line with your competition.” Who wouldn’t
sleep better knowing they got the best deal?

Social Commerce

 Product recommendations have always been a commerce driver, but with
the advent of social networks we’re seeing the rise of “social

Beyond just reading recommendations and sharing opinions on
social networks, retailers are using social networking tools to boost
retail sales as a speedier identity and authentication mechanism.

Facebook Connect allows retailers to integrate the social network’s Like button on their sites. It also
allows e-commerce operators to give consumers the option to sign in at
e-retail sites using their Facebook log-in information, which means
consumers can feed information back and forth between the e-retail site
and Facebook.

According to a survey, two-thirds of online retailers said they offered or planned to offer
visitors the ability to use their Facebook log-ons on their e-commerce

In-store apps

are also catching on to the use of applications and SMS programs
designed to drive traffic to mobile and in-store destinations.

Old Navy just recently partnered with Shazam
to promote its spring advertising campaign called Old Navy Records.
When customers enter any Old Navy location they can use the Shazam app to access exclusive Old Navy deals, styling tips, video and other music
content from their handsets.

Whenever an Old Navy Records song or video
is playing, Shazam users can tag it by holding their mobile device
towards where the song is playing. Once tagged, users can get access to
key looks featured in the songs.

Mobile point-of-sale (The Holy Grail)

With great speculation that 2011 will be the year of the “mobile wallet,” Starbucks, Guess and Disney
are all jumping into the mobile point-of-sale (POS) arena.

new app allows customers to manage a Starbucks Card account, check
balances, reload a card and check reward status. To make a purchase,
shoppers hold the mobile device in front of a scanner on the countertop
and scan the Starbucks Card Mobile App’s on-screen barcode.

Guess and
Disney will both roll out mobile POS systems this year enabling store
staff to use personalized data to assist customers and to execute sales
right at the rack. Better client experience, more closed sales and lower
set-up costs ($500 vs. $3,500 dedicated register) = $$$ cha ching!

Just this week Google announced
it is adding-in near field payment technology to its Nexus handset.
This will turn the mobile device in to an e-wallet and allow consumers
to pay by tapping their handset on one of several thousand Google
payment terminals.

This is being tested in New York and San Francisco. Look for this platform to take on payment, couponing, even loyalty programs.

Almost every aspect of the in-store experience has been influenced by
mobile technology
. And I haven’t even mentioned the proliferation and
impact of mobile ads, influencing shoppers even before a
product need has surfaced. We’re seeing the start of a fully convergent
online and in-person shopping experience.

In my next post we’ll take a look at how one of Europe’s largest food retailers is putting mobile commerce to use.