September 23, 2010, 5:06 PM

Millions of Americans are engaging in m-commerce, Forrester study finds

2% have purchased merchandise via their mobile phones and 5% have conducted product research.

Lead Photo

Jacqueline Anderson, author of the Forrester Research study, “The State of Consumers and Technology, Benchmark 2010.”

 5% of U.S. adults who own mobile phones have used their phones to research products before making purchases. 2% of those consumers have purchased merchandise via their phones, according to a new study from Forrester Research Inc.

This translates into millions of consumers engaging in mobile commerce, which experts believe will continue to grow as more consumers purchase smartphones, a key driver of m-commerce.

The market has shown over recent years that the more smartphones that land in consumers’ purses, hands and pockets—and their number is growing dramatically—the greater the use of the mobile web. The Forrester study, entitled “The State of Consumers and Technology, Benchmark 2010,” finds 23% of U.S. adults with mobile phones access the mobile web and with greater use of smartphones comes the proliferation of mobile apps. The study finds 7% of consumers who own mobile phones download apps.

“Consumers are definitely interested in advanced mobile functions, especially younger consumers. Education and access will be the two biggest factors for looping more individuals into m-commerce,” says Jacqueline Anderson, consumer insights analyst at Forrester and author of the study. “As more people are able to purchase smartphones and the data plans necessary to engage in advanced mobile functionalities, we’ll see these numbers rise. Consumers, especially older ones, will need to be educated about m-commerce opportunities, just as they were with e-commerce.”

The research is based on a survey of 37, 226 adults ages 18 and older, 30,452 of whom own mobile phones. The percentage of mobile phone owners who have used their devices for product research is highest for 18- to 30-year-olds at 8% and second highest for 31- to 44 year-olds at 7%. Additionally, 2% of all mobile owners receive coupons or promotions on their phones monthly, with 31- to 44-year-old consumers experiencing this the most at 4%, and 18- to 30-year-old consumers in second, at 3%.

For retailers with mobile apps, the numbers vary significantly by age group. While only 7% of all mobile phone owners download apps once a month, 18- to 30-year-olds do so nearly twice as much as average at 13%. 10% of 31- to 44-year-old mobile owners get at least one app monthly.

Looking at all respondents, not just mobile phone owners, 17% of  U.S. adults own smartphones, Forrester finds, and 23% of consumers between the ages of 18 and 44 carry the sophisticated mobile devices, higher than all other age groups.

However, when it comes to mobile commerce or even mobile Internet access, owning a smartphone is only part of the equation, Forrester reports. Consumers also need phone plans that allow for a high amount of data transfers to and from their devices—called data packages—in order to consistently engage in advanced mobile functions.

In high data plans, youngsters win again, Forrester reports. 30% of mobile phone owners between 18 and 30 have unlimited data plans, the highest of any age group. Meanwhile, 24% of all mobile phone owners report they have unlimited data packages, 65% say they do not and 11% did not answer the question.

Texting remains a favorite mobile activity, with 57% of all mobile phone owners sending or receiving a text at least once per month and 85% of 18- to 31-year-olds, 44% of 31- to 44-year-olds and 27% of 45- to 54-year-olds doing so. Retailers, however, should note that consumers texting friends and family doesn’t translate into wanting promotional text messaging. Only 5% of all mobile owners enter a contest or vote via a text message monthly. Consumers ages 18 to 30 and 31 to 41 are tied for the lead at 7%, Forrester reports.

When it comes to types phones owned by age groups, amid mobile owners and non mobile owners:

● 23% of 18- to 30-year-olds own smartphones, 28% own phones with QWERTY or touchscreen keyboards—also called quick messaging devices—and 88% own some type of mobile phone.

● 23% of 31- to 44-year-olds own smartphones, 19% a quick messaging device and 88% a mobile phone

● 14% of 45- to 54-year-olds own smartphones, 14% quick messaging devices and 83% a mobile phone

● 11% of 55- to 65-year-olds own smartphones, 10% quick messaging devices and 79% a mobile phone

● 4% of those 66 and older own smartphones, 6% own a quick messaging device and 65% a mobile phone




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