Absence of Mobile Commerce

We had some great discussions at the metrics and analytics focused Mobile Monday earlier this week. The turnout was fantastic:

July SV Mobile Monday

We had a much more representation on the business side of the house, I think mostly due to the help in promoting the event by VentureBeat (who also helped to organize the evening, thanks folks!).

The discussion around understanding the overall market layout and how people are using their phones tilted in the direction that people want to use the same sites and services on their handset as they use on their desktop. A very PC-centric view of the world, but there’s some weight behind the argument that it’s the way to drive adaption anyway so I just let it roll. Folks of course want versions of those sites that respect the restrictions and allow the optimizations enabled by being mobile. But at core people are doing the same things with their handset browsers as they do with their desktop systems – they’re searching a lot, they’re using social networks, they’re checking financial and sports updates, etc.

So my question was are there any holes in the usage patterns? If people are tending to do the same things mobile as they do desktop, what are the places where there isn’t an equivalent amount of mobile activity for a corresponding slice of desktop usage. And the main answer there was commerce. People aren’t buying things with their handset the same way they buy things from their desktop. Mobile payments and commerce is a topic I’ve been paying attention to for a while.

It’s an interesting area, cause the folks selling ringtones and wallpapers are doing it. That area has been a major cash cow for a while. So because there’s a counter-example most folks don’t see there being a “lack of mobile commerce”. What I’m talking about however is off-deck sites, and for the most part they have a lot of trouble completing a transaction. If something doesn’t happen to allow sites to sell “stuff” (whatever that stuff might be) in a more streamlined and self-service way there’s a large chunk of the ecosystem missing, and it needs to get filled in if mobile as a whole is going to keep progressing the way we want it to.

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3 Responses to Absence of Mobile Commerce

  1. We had some good discussion on this point at the “Mobile Web 2.0 Summit” held in London last month (http://www.mobilewebsummit.com/). Mark Curtis from Flirtomatic (http://www.flirtomatic.com) in particular talked about their success (and also some frustrations) in getting people to pay for goods (in this case virtual “presents”) in a social network off-deck context. They are a definite success story in this space. Podcast interview with Mark from SMS Text News should be available shortly here: http://www.smstextnews.com/2008/07/having_a_chat_with_mark_curtis_of_flirtomatic.html.

  2. miker says:

    Awesome, thanks for the pointer Dan!

  3. Mpayy’s Mobile website allows sellers to receive payments “on the go.” We turn any mobile web-enabled cell phone into a Mobile Point of Sale system. Fees are just $0.20 + 2.00%, which is less than PayPal online, and certainly less than their mobile fees.

    The target audience is the 14 million direct salespeople doing $30 billion in sales per year (Direct Selling Association, 2006) including AVON, Mary Kay, Taxi Cabs, tshirt vendors at concerts etc.

    However, for person-to-person transactions, there are no fees, and the payment can be made anywhere.

    We also support advanced account management features including viewing previous activity and making withdrawals to your linked bank account from the phone.

    We have the off deck payment capability. Now it’s just a matter of getting folks to use it!

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