March 17, 2009, 12:00 AM

Good news for m-commerce: Daily use of the mobile web is soaring

63.2 million people accessed the Internet on their mobile devices in January; 22.4 million did so daily—a year-over-year increase of 107%. The more the mobile web becomes the norm, experts say, the more consumers will embrace mobile shopping.

Overseas, in many European and Asian countries, accessing the Internet via smartphones and other mobile devices is commonplace. More Japanese, for example, access the web via mobile devices than via PCs. Today, according to new research from comScore Inc., the U.S., finally, is catching up to what many industry observers say will be the norm in the years ahead. And that’s good news for retailers in m-commerce.

The number of people using their mobile devices to access the Internet on a daily basis more than doubled from January 2008 to January 2009, comScore reports. 63.2 million people-29% of the U.S. population age 16 and over-accessed the web on their mobile devices during the month of January 2009. 22.4 million, or 35%, did so daily-an increase of 107% over 10.8 million in January 2008.

“Over the course of the past year, we have seen use of the mobile Internet evolve from an occasional activity to being a daily part of people’s lives,” says Mark Donovan, senior vice president, mobile, at comScore. “This underscores the growing importance of the mobile medium as consumers become more reliant on their mobile devices to access time-sensitive and utilitarian information.”

M-commerce experts in the trenches are not at all surprised by these numbers. This period in mobile history is analogous to the period just after the early days of the Internet, they say, when consumers used the web on their PCs for searching and finding information and were just beginning to shop. Faster connection speeds, better computers and greater comfort with using the Internet is what ultimately drove people to embrace shopping online, says Tim Sherwin, executive vice president and co-founder of CardinalCommerce Corp., an e-commerce and m-commerce technology vendor.

“That’s what we’ve been seeing lately in mobile-increased wireless data usage, better devices like the iPhone, T-Mobile G1 and BlackBerry Storm, and faster 3G network speeds,” Sherwin explains. “We’ve been seeing a dramatic increase in visitors to all of our retailer clients’ m-commerce sites. And we’ve been seeing an unbelievable rise in people accessing the m-commerce sites through mobile natural search from Google. And average page views per visit is seven and a half. People are getting more and more comfortable with the mobile web. We’ve hit critical mass.”

The new study from comScore also found wild jumps in the use of mobile devices to access the web in several categories. Following are the categories, daily unique users (in millions) in January 2008, daily unique users (in millions) in January 2009 and the percent increases:

  • Social networks and blogs, 1.8, 9.3, 427%
  • Stock information and financial accounts, 1.1, 3.2, 188%
  • Movie information, 1.1, 3.1, 185%
  • Entertainment news, 2.1, 5.5, 160%
“Social networking and blogging have emerged as very popular daily uses of the mobile web and these activities are growing at a torrid pace,” says Donovan of comScore. “We also note that much of the growth in news and information usage is driven by the increased popularity of downloaded applications, such as those offered for the iPhone.”

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