July 15, 2010, 6:02 PM

M-commerce still has some growing up to do in Europe

Few European consumers say they’re even interested in shopping via their mobile phones.

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Buying products from a mobile phone hasn’t taken off in Western Europe, at least not yet, a new report from Forrester Research Inc. finds. Just 2% of European online buyers purchase products from their mobile phones and only 5% say they are interested in doing so. A few retailers, however, are dipping their toes in mobile commerce, the study finds.

The consumers who are most interested in mobile shopping in Europe, not surprisingly, are male  technology enthusiasts in their mid-30s. They tend to be relatively wealthy and would pay more for products that save them time and hassle, the report says.

Italian and Swedish online buyers are warming most to the idea of m-commerce, Forrester says. 13% of Italian online buyers and 11% of those from Sweden would be interested in buying products or services on their mobile phones or already do so. Online buyers in France, Germany and the Netherlands, on the other hand, show less interest, at 4%, 5% and 5%, respectively. 7% of all Western European online buyers said they would be interested in mobile commerce or were already buying through their phones.

When it comes to shopping activities via a mobile device, browsing was the most popular.

However, although researching products and services is the most common shopping-related activity on a handset, only 7% of online buyers in the region do it. 5% of online buyers use their mobile phones to check on the status of an order or locate a nearby store. 2% use their handsets to buy an item that was not available in a store.

Retailers such as British Internet grocer Ocado have mobile applications aimed at capturing orders via a mobile phone. Ocado was the first U.K. retailer to launch an iPhone app: Ocado on the Go. Users can shop items including food, drinks, books and toys, Forrester says. 4.4% of all Ocado orders in February 2010 were taken through the iPhone app.

Other retailers, Forrester says, including women’s apparel retailer Oasis and luxury fashion retailer Net-A-Porter, also have launched iPhone apps that enable customers to shop and complete transactions via their mobile devices.

Some retailers are deciding to develop full m-commerce sites, Forrester says. Marks & Spencer, for example, recently launched site designed for mobile devices. Mobile users can access the site through the original Marks & Spencer URL without having to download any software or apps. The retailer engaged London-based agency Mobile Interactive Group to design the mobile site and used m-commerce technology vendor Usablenet for back-end development. Usablenet has built m-commerce sites for such retailers as ShopNBC.com, Vitacost.com, OfficeMax and REI. 

France-based mass merchant Carrefour has launched m.carrefour.fr, where users can see 360-degree product views, find in-store promotions, check inventory, and order products, Forrester reports.

Despite the lukewarm interest in mobile shopping, Forrester says Western European mobile Internet adoption is growing rapidly. It will triple from 13% of Western European mobile users accessing the web via their phones in 2008 to 39% in 2014, according to Forrester.

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