Mobile commerce is one of the biggest trends to affect small business owners, and it hasn’t even fully arrived yet. Consider this: between 2010 and January 2011, the number of Americans that owned smartphones grew from 45.5 million to 65.8 million. And those Americans are doing more with their smartphones than just talking, texting and watching YouTube videos. According to a ComScore survey, 48 percent of them -- that's more than 31 million people -- are shopping, too.
Those numbers will only grow, with some analysts betting that mobile commerce will quickly outpace traditional ecommerce. This presents a great opportunity for small business, which makes now the perfect time to assess whether mobile commerce makes sense for you and your customers.
We recently invited an all-star cast of mobile commerce analysts, experts, vendors and journalists to kick off our inaugural Twitter chat. Here's what came of the discussion, with great tips and advice to help you decide whether mobile commerce should be part of your business plan, and what you can do to get started.
We'll start with the list of our panelists and their Twitter names -- follow them to stay informed on mobile commerce and other small business issues:
- Laurie McCabe, principal analyst and co-founder of SMB-Group (@lauriemccabe)
- Mike Craig, co-founder and vice president of Ruxter (@ruxtermobi)
- Aaron Maxwell, founder of Mobile Web Up (@mobilewebup)
- Annette Tonti, CEO of MoFuse (@atonti)
- Aaron Sandoval and Melissa Vincent, vice presidents at UR Mobile (@urmobile4good)
- Igor Faletski, CEO of Mobify (@igorskee)
- Dan Muse, editor in chief, B2B, Quinstreet, Small Business Computing (@dmuse)
- Lauren Simonds, managing editor, Small Business Computing (@SmBizComputing)
- Ecommerce expert Vangie Beal (@AuroraGG)
- Jennifer Schiff, principal, Schiff and Schiff Communication (@jenniferlschiff)
An Expert Take on Mobile Commerce for Small Business
The most basic question of course, is why should a small business consider mobile commerce?
"So many consumers are using smartphones, and they have the Internet in their pockets," said analyst Laurie McCabe. "It's a great way to get a competitive advantage." The fact that so many people are moving to smartphones and Web-enabled devices is the force driving this trend.
"Everyone," said Annette Tonti, CEO of MoFuse, "is walking in to your store, restaurant, etc., with a full computer in their pocket."
With so many people accessing the Web through a mobile device, doesn't it make sense to cater to your customers? "Yes," said McCabe. "We see customer convenience as a big factor for mobile commerce."
And small businesses that have already made the leap to mobile commerce are seeing positive results. "The best answer I have [for implementing mobile commerce] is that it's ramping up very fast. One client has literally seen 10 percent growth per month," said Aaron Maxwell, founder of Mobile Web Up.
Igor Faletski, CEO of Mobify, offered yet another reason why having a website that can be viewed easily by a variety of mobile devices is increasingly important. "For a growing number of people, mobile is the primary (and sometimes the only) way they access the Web.
But mobile commerce is about more than just buying products. People use mobile devices to research products, schedule appointments, recommend products to friends on social network sites and compare product pricing online to what they see inside brick-and-mortar stores. As a result, mobile commerce is about more than just selling products.
Small businesses "need to deliver information that can facilitate a transaction -- e.g., make it easy for your business to be "found" via a mobile Web browser, [conduct] mobile marketing campaigns such as text promotions and loyalty programs," said McCabe.
How Big is Mobile Commerce?
It is one thing to say mobile commerce is a big trend that could supersede ecommerce, but how does that translate into real dollars? Our panelists use a variety of measurements, but all agree that the mobile commerce future is both big and bright.
Laurie McCabe: "The mobility market will reach $1 trillion by 2014."
Annette Tonti: "Last year both Ebay and Amazon recorded more than $1B each in sales originating from mobile devices."
Aaron Maxwell: "Juniper research predicts that mobile payments will reach $600 billion globally before 2013."