Mobile commerce. What do those words even mean to consumers and retailers? There are many different blueprints for describing it but really, mobile commerce boils down to two concepts: ecommerce on mobile devices and payments presented on mobile devices, with the latter being the more revolutionary and thus partial backdrop to this little blurb. It seems like we have been on the brink of adoption forever. Nevertheless, mobile commerce still has not reached the masses. Why?
From a retailer standpoint, the expense of legacy integration with financial processes, reasonable legal disclosure availability for transactions and carrier/aggregator hassles are just a few of the typical hold-ups. There are many others. Given these challenges, should retailers really consider taking their commerce operations to mobile platforms? Is it really worth all the hassle? The answer is yes. It is absolutely worth it. But why? The easy answer would be to talk about shopper multitasking trends or smartphone adoption. But the real answer is clearer and more traditional than you might think. We will come to that.
Before answering “why” for brands, I think it helps to look at ourselves as consumers, and compare our past with our present to see our future — to gain context. For example, 15 years ago, did we ever think we would casually buy so much merchandise online? Ten years ago, did we ever think we would abandon landlines for mobile phones? Five years ago, did we ever think we would “text” our kids daily?
When contemplating these realities, mass adoption of mobile commerce habits by shoppers seems like a no-brainer. This is because, collectively, we humans adapt quickly to technology that surrounds us, especially when that technology fits our natural rhythms so well. What rhythms? See the next paragraph.
Looking further back, many historical modes of commerce have been “mobile.” Think about it. When you go to a store and buy your groceries, you are participating in “mobile commerce.” You are going to the location and transacting there. By definition, that is mobile commerce and people are used to experiencing the world in this way. Mobile commerce and payments add a contextual layer of helpful information to a familiar process.
But back to the original “why” question. Why should retailers adopt mobile platforms for commerce/payment and what are the benefits? The answer has to do with the fact that we are now in the era of “on-demand” consumption. For younger generations it is all they know, and is therefore swiftly becoming the expectation. Mobile commerce meets this expectation by providing retailers with the best way to get equipped consumers the relevant products and services they desire at the exact moment they are thinking about them – or even when they are not thinking about them. This can be facilitated no matter where the consumers happen to be as long as they are carrying their mobile devices — which, let us face it…they are.
So the benefit this mobile channel gives to retailers is that it allows them to own that ephemeral moment in a purchase life-cycle that counts more than any other – that moment of impulse. With the help of the mobile channel, the impetus to act on that desire is not lost, no matter when or where it happens. Therefore, the “always on” mobile commerce scenario is the ultimate enabler for consumption, whether that is good or bad. I think it is mostly good and my guess is many brands and retailers out there will agree.
- Written by James “Jay” Donovan who is a mobile strategy specialist at Alliance Data, Columbus, OH.