M-commerce to surge in US

24 November 2010

NEW YORK: Mobile commerce sales are set to surpass $6bn (€4.4bn; £3.8bn) in the US in four years time, according to a new study by Booz & Co.

Booz cited Shopkick, which runs an iPhone app offering members "kickbucks" for checking in to Best Buy, American Eagle and Macy's outlets, as an example of how this channel could develop.

Among the incentives available are gift cards, donations to charity or, in the case of Best Buy, an instant discount.

"Combining the power of GPS, the ubiquity of the cell phone, and the internet, as well as creative marketing, Shopkick and numerous other similar applications are altering the consumer landscape," Booz said.

"[This is] at a time when retailers are struggling to reach customers, who have become more and more hesitant to open up their wallets in a soft economic environment."

A survey by the consultancy found that between 15% and 20% of Americans now employ wireless phones to compare prices and products.

This figure is likely to rise as US smartphone penetration hits 74% by 2014, measured against 17% today.

Elsewhere, 16% of interviewees currently "augment shopping in retail channels" via their handsets, and 25% plan to do so going forward.

Indeed, Booz predicted that 50% will have adopted such an activity in the next two years.

Overall, it forecast somewhere in the range of 10% and 15%, or $155bn and $230bn, of US bricks-and-mortar retail revenues would be influenced by cellphones in 2011.

These totals stood at $70bn and $110bn respectively covering the collective output of France, Germany and the UK.

Retail giant Amazon recently reported that mobile sales have already crossed the $1bn mark, while eBay expects to generate $1.5bn from this route in 2010, selling one item every two seconds.

Booz pegged US m-commerce revenues at an estimated $2.1bn in 2011, $1.75bn of which is attributable to physical goods and $250m to digital media.

By 2014, category returns for actual products could reach $5.5bn, supplemented with $1bn for media content.

Consumers in France, Germany and the UK goods will spend $850m on goods and $300m media in 2011, expanding to $1.65bn and $600m in four years time.

Assessing all featured markets, Booz suggested electronics should deliver 18% of product sales through cellphones in 2011, ahead of apparel's 17%, music and video's 15%, food and grocery's 14%, and housewares' 12%.

By demographic, 15-24 year olds are set to yield 24% of purchases, 25-34 year olds posted 31 and, 35-44 year olds contributed 24%, falling to 14% among 45-54 year olds and 8% regarding the over-55s.

Looking forward, 85% of participants from the US poll believed retailers must integrate social media with m-commerce.

At present, 30% of the sample used three or more channels to make acquisitions, and 83% stated a heightened affinity towards retailers providing a personalised experience whatever medium was employed.

A further 47% preferred businesses which could recall their browsing history, and 54% expressed a desire to access online loyalty account management offering credits, points and promotions across all channels.

When in-store, the most commonly-used mobile commerce vehicle was advertising, and consumers said ads changed purchase decisions 38% more often while they were shopping than at home or in the office.

"M-commerce blurs the distinction between websites and physical stores," Booz & Co concluded.

"This approach … gives retailers the opportunity to influence shoppers in real time as they browse their own stores or even the shelves and aisles of a competitor."

Data sourced from Booz & Co; additional content by Warc staff