Don’t you just love how every year, someone predicts that “the mobile” will “arrive”? (Me too! I love these crazy forecasts! Must be my penchant for fiction.) Well, today, Read Write Web takes a hard look at mobile eCommerce and the challenges that stand between us and buy-anytime-anywhere.
A couple years ago, about 6 months after the iPhone came out, I sat on a panel about the mobile Internet, and the final question was something along the lines of “When will the mobile Internet arrive?” My answer was when we had large scale adoption of a browsing experience like what the iPhone provided. Well, smartphones have come a long way in technology and adoption in the intervening years, and the mobile Internet is gaining in popularity worldwide—and yet m-Commerce is still lagging behind.
Mobile Is Up; M-Commerce Isn’t
Having smartphones and a good mobile browsing experience are just one part of the puzzle. RWW cites several sources that show the continued growing popularity of mobile, and even mobile Internet and mobile TV. But mobile eCommerce is “struggling.” Two of the biggest barriers are privacy/security concerns and a lack of mobile payment providers.
It may simply take time to overcome users’ concerns about the security of mobile information—or perhaps a popular mobile app can help us out.
RWW point out that just last week, Facebook announced a virtual mobile payment deal with Zong. The mobile app will let verified users purchase Facebook credits using only their cell number (instead of, say, a credit card number, which they would have previously entered and verified).
Despite Facebook’s struggles with privacy issues, RWW says the mainstream public will be more likely to accept a mobile payments app from a site they know and trust (wisely or not). Other mobile payments initiatives are in the works from trusted names like Visa, MasterCard and Nokia.
But considering that most of the developing world can only access the Internet through mobile phones (and they do), maybe this problem is unique to the US.
Outside the US—M-Everything Thrives
Although a few mobile sectors are doing really well in the US, it’s nothing compared to the popularity of mobile everything around the world. RWW gives some examples:
In developing markets, however, where critical infrastructure like bank branches and high-speed internet is often lacking, people use mobile phones for all sorts of things including mobile banking, mobile money transfer, mobile education, and mobile medicine.
For example, one of the more successful mobile phone money-transfer services is M-PESA, a branchless banking service which has seen success in Kenya, Tanzania, and Afghanistan. Then in Sri Lanka, parts of Africa, and other low-GDP region a company called Amdocs even helps mobile users to spend their minutes like currency.
However, RWW predicts that, eventually, the mobile market will see adoption once the apps are available and useable.
What do you think? What will it take before you’ll give out your credit info over SMS or mobile Internet—Facebook or another site? Or does the future lie in systems like Facebook’s, where you can input sensitive data on “secure” lines, and keep that on the merchants’ servers rather than transmitting it?