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Alan Ellerton, account director, Simpson Carpenter

According to the IAB UK, smartphone ownership grew 70% between 2009 and 2010. IMS Research predicts smartphone shipments to Europe will top 200m by 2015. Last year saw many retailers move seriously into mobile commerce. With this in mind, we surveyed more than 1,100 smartphone owners in February to understand what physical products they’re buying from their devices, their attitudes to shopping via mobile, and whether they plan to continue shopping in this way.

Based on our research, current mobile shoppers are highly satisfied with the process and will continue to buy. 27% of smartphone owners have bought items including books, CDs and DVDs, clothes, groceries, hotel rooms and tickets, and large appliances, while 48% expect to do so in the next 12 months. The items that respondents said would see the fastest growth in the next year were hotel rooms (expected to increase 217%), large appliances (up 187%) and groceries (up 132%).

However, m-commerce isn’t necessarily mobile. Only a third of buyers (34%) were actually shopping on the go, the remainder buying via phone in a situation where they could have used a PC: 43% were at home, 13% at work and 10% at a friend’s house. So m-commerce is being integrated into the existing shopper journey, rather than carving a niche for itself. Respondents were happy using their mobile for pre-purchase research, as they would the web via a PC, as well as for actual purchasing.

Smartphone shoppers are also starting to use the unique capabilities of their devices. 32% had taken photos of products while shopping to get opinions from friends and relatives, 17% had scanned a barcode from a product or ad, 14% had downloaded a voucher or promotion, and 7% had done this in the vicinity of the retailer to redeem it immediately. QR codes have only limited awareness, but there’s certainly curiosity about them, with smartphone shoppers starting to trial them.

There are barriers to wider take up of m-commerce, though, mostly technical. The biggest challenges are the small screen size (43%) and image clarity (41%). Almost a third of respondents cited issues with the connection speed (31%) and 28% found navigation and usability challenging. A significant number (26%) were concerned about the security of their financial details when buying via their smartphone.

Some retailers are already doing well at addressing these issues, according to respondents. Retailers voted best in class for m-commerce in our survey were Ebay, Amazon, Tesco and Argos.

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Published 21 April, 2011 by NMA Staff

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