M-commerce will reach “critical mass” in 2012, says Google

UK shoppers forecast to spend $4.5 billion on mobile this year

The m-commerce market will reach “critical mass” in the UK this year, as rocketing smartphone and tablet ownership fuels demand for mobile shopping, according to Google’s director of mobile ad sales. Speaking at the Future of Mobile conference in London, Google’s Ian Carrington claims that travel, retail and entertainment segments are seeing particularly strong growth on mobile. With UK shoppers forecast to spend $4.5 billion buying products and services via mobile devices this year, up 53% year on year, Carrington says the m-commerce market will only grow “bigger and bigger” as retailers continue shifting their businesses to mobile.

Commerce is at a tipping point. It will reach critical mass in 2012,” he says. “What I mean by that is that some customers are going to find that mobile is now bigger than their biggest shop in terms of sales and on some days mobile will be more than 50% of digital sales.”

Carrington suggests that it is the rise of smartphones in particular that is boosting the adoption of m-commerce. The UK is one of the most mature markets globally, with more than 50% of mobile phone sales now smartphones. Globally, smartphone sales overtook PCs for the first time last year and are expected to outnumber desktop computers three to one over the next three years. A fifth of UK shoppers are already using mobile devices to complete shopping tasks, with 13% making purchases using their mobile phones and 7% using tablets, according to Shoppercentric. The stats are indicative of changing shopping habits, with consumers increasingly performing tasks they previously carried out on PCs using mobile devices. 

NFC-enabled devices are expected to play a major role in the growth of m-commerce, forecast to power $74 billion worth of mobile transactions by 2015, as the technology opens up new payment opportunities for merchants and consumers. “There are 100 million NFC phones already across 40 handsets globally. These figures are expected to rocket as businesses and consumers embrace [mobile commerce],” says Carrington. 

Consumers are also increasingly willing to purchase expensive goods on mobile, according to Carrington, citing eBay’s success on mobile as a bellwether for the migration to mobile. eBay says that it expects to surpass $8 billion in mobile sales this year, up from $5 billion in 2011, at a rate of around one sale per second, as the popularity of mobile shopping continues to rise. The retailer claims to sell five cars per minute and between three and four Ferraris per month; stats that bode well for retailers looking to grow their mobile revenues by selling high-end goods. eBay Mobile has seen 65 million downloads of its mobile apps, with this figure expected to rise as mobile commerce moves into the mainstream.

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