Mobile commerce is still missing consumer involvement

Mobile commerce has long been a focus point for mobile operators, technology developers and handset vendors. But progress has been slow as the major credit card issuers joined with the banking community to quarrel with European mobile operators over who would own the m-commerce transaction and customer relationship.

But in these enlightened times, where squeezed profit margins dictate the need for clearer thinking, partnerships are becoming commonplace in an effort to make m-commerce a useful and widely adopted service.

All the hard work bringing these vital components together must be applauded, but recent research indicates that one even more critical party still requires engagement: the consumer.

A new survey conducted by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) found actual usage of m-commerce by UK phone users had remained largely stagnant between 2010 and 2011.  

While there were positive results--such as average mobile transaction values increasing from £12.20 to £17.49 during this 12 month period--the percentage of the 45 million UK mobile users that had engaged in any sort of m-commerce activity was 51 per cent in 2010, and 52 per cent in 2011. Mobile ticketing and the use of loyalty points were flat, while purchasing items with smart codes actual fell by 1 per cent.

IAB's senior mobile manager, Alex Kozloff, has suggested that retailers, while pushing ahead with deploying mobile-optimised websites and apps, were failing to communicate the availability and benefits of m-commerce to consumers.

"It is something that retailers need to shout about because we need to widen that base [of m-commerce users] and it hasn't really happened over the last year," Kozloff told Mobile Marketing Magazine "The people doing it are the same people as last year."

This valuable insight points to the retail industry, crucial within this complex value chain, suggesting it has yet to acknowledge and overcome some fundamental hurdles.

But blaming retailers for not understanding the consumer needs is perhaps unfair given the huge marketing resources that the cellular and financial services industries could draw upon to help solve the problem.

As perhaps another sign of the immaturity of m-commerce, the IAB has only just issued proposed common API guidelines for rich media mobile ads. The Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions (MRAID), which are open to public comment, are looking to make the development of mobile advertising more consistent and effective.

Altogether, this does make me nervous about when m-commerce will be something consumers accept as an everyday and commonplace service. --Paul