Device security, small screens and the inconvenience of entering card details are still among of the main barriers holding back m-commerce.

The findings come from a Webcredible study that conducted diary studies and in-depth interviews with 15 smartphone users.

While it probably won’t come as a surprise to smartphone owners, the study found that mobiles are best for secondary activities that require short bursts of attention and can be abandoned but easily picked up again later.

Key activities included daydreaming (i.e. searching and exploring with no real purpose), short tasks that get things out the way and help the user manage their own time better, and monitoring ongoing activities such as live bets or bids on eBay. my research, but then when I am going to buy it I do it at home”.

There was also a propensity for participants to perform short transactions on their smartphones, favouring sites where they had already signed up so their card details were stored or a digital wallet was available.

The study found that users worry about filling in forms and don’t like performing lengthy processes on their mobiles. Only rarely would they happily enter their details on their phones for the first time whilst out and about.

A typical quote from one of the respondents was: “I browse for things on the phone and do my research, but then when I am going to buy it I do it at home”.

Barriers to m-commerce adoption

The study identified four reoccurring issues that put respondents off making purchases on their smartphones - security, safety, screen size and connectivity.

Most of the participants were worried about security issues such as having their phones hacked, or infected with viruses that could lead to their personal details being intercepted or stolen. 

These concerns were particularly noticeable among Android and Blackberry users.

At home or at work consumers have become familiar with the software and technology in place to protect them and their technology, but with smartphones users still feel more exposed and lack this sort of recognisable protection.

There were similar concerns about safety when entering card details on the phone in public where other people can see. This is the main reason why respondents favoured apps and mobile sites where their details were already stored.

One respondent said: “I was going to buy a laptop. I did browse on the phone, but I didn’t buy it there. I only reserved it. I would be worried about paying that sort of money entering my card details on the phone, so I paid it at the store”.

The third issue was with the screen size, as it makes it difficult to appreciate the look and feel of products.

Unless it is a product that consumers are already familiar with, or a product for which the looks are not a factor to consider, users are a bit reluctant to complete the purchase from their phones.

And finally, the problem of poor 3G access and slow connectivity meant that respondents were worried about being cut off in the middle of a transaction.

“For some, it wasn’t worth trying to embark on a lengthy purchase process very likely to be interrupted at some point because of loss of reception or poor connectivity.”


The concerns raised by the study are challenges that retailers have been trying to overcome for several years. The size of the screen is something that can never really be overcome and has in part contributed to the success of tablets in driving conversions.

Consumers clearly like the convenience of a mobile device, but still want to see large, hi-res images before making a purchase decision.

Consumer concerns over security and safety can be solved though. As the report suggests, by storing the customers data or offering alternative payment methods such as PayPal you can bypass the need for form filling and entering card details.

This has been shown proven to work for the likes of Amazon and eBay, which aims to process $10bn in mobile sales this year.

Other simple methods, such as offering prominent reassurances that the checkout process is secure can help to allay customer concerns and reduce the chance of basket abandonment.