April 6, 2007, 12:00 AM

Coming relatively soon to a mobile phone near you

While only 2% of brands in the retail sector operate m-commerce sites, that’s changing as more e-retailers explore the nascent mobile arena. The change, however, is coming very slowly, experts say.

Some e-retailers big and small have it-Amazon.com, Overstock.com, Netflix, AmericanGreetings.com, Moosejaw Mountaineering and Capalbo’s Gift Baskets, to name a few. But the overwhelming majority of merchants do not. And that is a presence in m-commerce.

8% of the top 1,000 U.S. brands offer mobile versions of their web sites, according to the “Top 1,000 U.S. Brands Mobile Web Presence Survey” from multimedia technology and research firm RarePlay.com. However, only 2% of brands in the retail sector operate mobile sites, the study says.

That’s expected to change as more e-retailers explore the nascent m-commerce arena. The change, however, is coming very slowly, experts say.

“Right now you have to have deep pockets to be in m-commerce to lay the foundation for profit from the growth to come,” says Josh Crandall, managing director of Media-Screen Consulting, a digital media research and consulting firm. “There will not be big growth in m-commerce during the next 18 months, it’s safe to say.”

Another mobile expert predicts the same timeframe, adding once m-commerce takes off the growth will be impressive. “Mobile phones are highly convenient,” says Vikrant Gandhi, strategic industry analyst for mobile communications at research and consulting giant Frost & Sullivan. “Once users are convinced of the security and convenience factors, and e-retailers install the necessary infrastructure, it will fly,” he says. “We already are seeing promising mobile coupon applications.”

Gandhi suggests e-retailers begin looking into what m-commerce is and the value it might bring to their business. “E-retailers can start by creating a mobile presence,” whether it is a site that enables transactions or only marketing and branding efforts, he says. “Simply put, a storefront can go mobile.”

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