April 10, 2007, 12:00 AM

Mobile phone expected to have big impact on retail

Whether or not shoppers choose to make purchases via m-commerce, the mobile platform will have a profound impact on e-commerce; but a big impact still is a ways off.

Whether or not shoppers choose to make purchases via m-commerce, the mobile platform will have a profound impact on e-commerce, says Tamara Mendelsohn, a consumer markets analyst who specializes in m-commerce at Forrester Research Inc. “The mobile phone will have a huge role in retail simply by providing access to consumer information wherever a shopper may be, such as standing in a store in front of a row of plasma TVs or on their way to the store to buy one.”

The big impact still is a ways off, though, experts say. “There will not be big growth in m-commerce during the next 18 months, it’s safe to say,” says Josh Crandall, managing director of Media-Screen Consulting, a digital media research and consulting firm.

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 firm Frost & Sullivan. “Once users are convinced of the security and convenience factors, and e-retailers install the necessary infrastructure, it will fly,” he says.

As U.S. consumers grow increasingly comfortable with mobile devices, using them for activities beyond voice, the mobile channel stands to exert a greater impact on their shopping habits, according to “U.S. Mobile Commerce 2007: Low Reception,” written by Forrester Research’s Mendelsohn with Nikki Baird, Carrie A. Johnson, Christine Spivey Overby and Brian Tesch. However, only 12% of U.S. households with mobile phones use their carriers’ data services, which enable most m-commerce activities.

Still, that number is growing, and m-commerce undoubtedly will have great influence on e-commerce, says Chetan Sharma, president of Chetan Sharma Consulting, which specializes in mobile technology. “It is inevitable,” he says, “that mobile devices will become an accepted way to conduct transactions.”

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