It’s been a while since people were actually discussing mCommerce as a true hype and latest trend in digital media. Yet slowly but surely the use of mobile devices and services grew more and more intense and today, as the mobile internet is quite popular, almost everybody involved in digital business has at least heard of mobile commerce.
The necessary hardware is wide-spread nowadays as a great variety of PDAs and smartphones has been brought to market within the last years and months. Especially in business context a smartphone has become a true essential: there are only very few managers left without a mobile inbox and 24/7 WLAN access – thanks to network operators’ special interest in premium customers, as well as their flexible flat rate contracts, and probably some peer group dynamics…
The Blackberry was for a long time the most common mobile internet device until summer 2008, when Apple’s iPhone 3G hit the market. With new conceptions of mobile internet and cell phone usability suddenly present in any kind of media (virtually and literally): the new age of mobile digital lifestyle was finally publicly acknowledged – … and iPhone declared its king by the large community of Apple fans.
Looking back today with some months’ distance it has to be admitted that, certainly, there was some kind of hype around the iPhone, marvellously staged by a yet another ingenious Apple marketing campaign. But it is equally true that the iPhone’s new navigation and display capabilities and many genuinely interactive applications in the ever flourishing Apple AppStore introduced some new standards in technology and customers enthusiasm to the mass market. This set the bar very high for any competitor attempting to follow and fuelled competition for new standards in usability and convenience for surfing the internet.
T-Mobile G1, launched about 5 months ago, still is the most promising competitor to the iPhone today. According to some recent announcements the soon to be launched Palm Pré might become the strongest rival to the iPhone, as Palm seems to be accepting the challenge to offer something entirely new to early adopters.
Any appraisal or disbelief today being premature, nevertheless this recent development can already be rated something clearly positive for the evolving market: As competition is always good for business, users might be so lucky as to experience some more competitive pricing and a shift in quality soon.
But -of course- the simple purchase of a mobile-internet capable device is by no means an indicator of its actual use.
Some voices claim mobile internet and mobile commerce are broadly used already. But seen up close there are still more surveys on mCommerce being conducted than reliable survey results being published. (some random survey on mobile ticketing, a special form of mCommerce)
But rumour has it that Google web search already detects a considerable percentage of queries stemming from mobile devices. (no recent figures confirmed though)
And those who are frequently checking their twitter account cannot help but notice an increasing number of entries submitted via some mobile application.
Departing from this data basis -knowing that there are suitable devices at hand and also a considerable user base willing to actively engage in mobile internet usage- there is still one premise missing to provide the condition of possibility to mCommerce:
Do the duly equipped mCommerce prospects find some adequate content to deal with?
Are there shops (and products) to entice people to actually engage in mCommerce?
This might be boiled down to e.g. the following three (to name only few):
- Is the shop’s search field visible at first glance? (Mobile shoppers mostly prefer the quick way to shop as they are usually perfectly aware of what they are looking for.)
- Does the shop offer appropriate payment methods and delivery conditions to guarantee a smooth shopping experience?
- And finally did the merchant take all security precautions required and (very importantly!) did she choose the appropriate means of communication to make their mobile shop visitors feel safe to shop regardless of whether they are browsing via cell phone display or laptop screen?
OXID eShop’s standard templates were made to fit some basic mobile commerce needs, but of course only very few OXID eShops out there left it at that and instead succeeded in creating a vast variety of individual front end designs. And just like that: payment, security, and most of the other key success factors for mCommerce are up to the merchant’s individual business model.
In business development at OXID we have been evaluating several options to truly embrace mCommerce and we started working on some specific ideas since beginning of last year already.
With long term partner and well-known usability expert Shoplupe we are now taking the next step to further this topic!
This morning Shoplupe launched a new consulting product: iPhone expert report:
an overall shop usability to check your online shop for iPhone compatibility. There is a two weeks special offer exclusive for OXID eShop merchants that any OXID owner attempting to approach mCommerce should not leave unexploited.
I hope for feedback and lively community discussion in our OXID forum. Share your know-how and individual mCommerce experiences with all of us.