TT178: M-commerce: the Buzzword of 2012

August 07, 2012

So you thought you were up to date with your e-commerce website? Think again! The latest focus for major retailers is m-commerce with huge growth – akin to the early days of e-commerce – predicted for 2012 in this market.

What is m-commerce?

M-commerce is similar to e-commerce, only consumers are using their mobile device rather than a computer. Despite m-commerce first appearing as early as 1997, mainly using pay-by-SMS services, it did not take off as a popular shopping method until the development of user-friendly smartphones and ‘apps’. More than half of UK mobile users now have a smartphone[1] while tablets such as the iPad are also becoming more and more popular. What’s more, a recent whitepaper from Adobe noted that tablet users spend 20% more per purchase than desktop computer users [2].

Until now the majority of income from m-commerce has come from shopping apps, along the lines of those produced by large retailers such as Amazon or Tesco, where you can make purchases without entering a web browser. Recent evidence from the US suggests a shift towards m-commerce through mobile optimized websites.[3] Mobile banking and mobile money transfer are also part of the m-commerce market.

Is your business right for m-commerce?

Think about what sort of purchases you might make on your mobile device. Typical products are often small value, impulse purchases – maybe gifts, clothes, DVDs or electronic content such as e-books. Fashion and clothing is another fast growing area of m-commerce.

Some apps for food/meal shopping are popular as customers can use their commute, for example, to do their weekly shop or order a takeaway for when they get home. A UK app for Domino’s Pizza generated revenue of £1 million in a week earlier this year.[4]

The m-commerce advantage

M-commerce can generate more sales, particularly impulse purchases. It is more convenient for consumers who are increasingly busy and may not have the time to go shopping. It’s perfect for online content delivery such as mp3s which can be delivered directly to a mobile device.


The next step to selling via mobile

Many e-commerce websites are based around off the shelf or open source backends such as Magento or Shopify, which can be customised to match the merchant’s own website without having to develop the full shopping site from scratch. These online e-commerce software packages provide solutions for a mobile-optimised website. For instance, Magneto has a free mobile theme to convert desktop websites to phone-friendly formats while many developers offer to extend this with bespoke themes.

There are also a range of apps that integrate with the website backend, taking data such as product information from the site and feeding back purchase information to the site. In this way, you can enter the m-commerce market with very little difficulty and expenditure. Obviously, if you want a custom app developed to integrate with your custom e-commerce software, this will be more time-consuming and costly. Whichever type of app you use, you will need to market the app and persuade your customers to use it.

Mobile-optimised websites or apps that integrate with an existing backend should not cause any reporting difficulties. All sales should be recorded through the existing site and reporting/accounting will be no different than for a simple e-commerce site.
Any businesses selling to consumers should seriously consider whether their sales are suited to m-commerce. With such high growth predicted, don’t miss out on your market share.

[1] TechRadar: Half of UK Mobile Users on Smartphones
[2] Adobe: Digital Marketing Insights
[3] Nielsen App vs. Mobile Web
[4] Dominos UK Makes 1m in Mobile Sales in a Week


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