October 12, 2010, 11:18 AM

Mobile’s time has come

Shoppers expect m-commerce, a Travelocity executive says at Internet Retailer's Mobile Commerce Forum.

Lead Photo

Attendees at Internet Retailer's first Mobile Commerce Forum at this morning's general session

Mobile shoppers are expected to spend  $119 billion globally on goods and services in 2015, up from $12 billion in 2009, Will Pinnell, director of mobile commerce for Sabre Holdings, parent of online travel company Travelocity, told attendees today at Internet Retailer’s Mobile Commerce Forum 2010. Consumers want to be able to shop via their phones, and that means companies need to develop a mobile strategy now, he said.

“Shopping is shifting,” Pinnell said.  “Direct mail programs and events aren’t working as well as they used to and shoppers are becoming increasingly comfortable purchasing anything on their mobile phone. The next and current generation of shoppers will expect it.”

And it’s not just shopping via a mobile site or an app, Pinnell said. More than half of consumers in a survey spanning 11 countries used their phones for in-store activities such as comparison shopping and getting peer feedback, product information and coupons, Pinnell said. And, he said, text messaging is growing as well. U.S. mobile phones users now send more than 5 billion text messages per day, he said.

As mobile grows, new technologies such as Google Inc.’ Android operating system and devices such as Apple Inc.’s iPad and other tablet computers, are creating both new opportunities and complexities for companies developing mobile programs.

“It used to be all about the iPhone, but Google is now shipping 160,000 Android devices daily,” Pinnell told attendees. “And the iPad is changing the way we think about mobility, with 10 million devices expected to ship this year.”

These developments enable retailers and other companies to leverage new mobile technologies—including identifying where a shopper is in order to provide location-based services, and caching data in a mobile browser, providing mobile web sites with more of the power of apps that can store web site data and present it quickly. That’s good news because many consumers can’t download apps—many employers and by government agencies prohibit employees from downloading anything to their phones. He also said companies should look to capitalize on other emerging mobile technologies, such as augmented reality—in which the capabilities of a mobile phone are used to enhance a presentation, such as using the camera to identify a consumer’s location and then sending her a coupon to a nearby store—and mobile couponing in general.

Pinnell said leaders in mobile commerce will need to understand the complexity of the mobile marketplace, including the browsers consumers use and the technical environments for developing applications. He also suggested they should examine if and how customers are buying via a mobile phone and study the demographics of their mobile customers.

“Recognize different customers and the phones they carry to tailor products specifically to them,” he said.

When it comes to research, don’t rely on data from third parties. “Actually watch customers use your mobile applications,” he said. He also suggested companies work to understand what kind of mobile communications customers want from a particular retailer or other business.

And lastly, he said, be ready to make the necessary investments to establish a footprint in mobile.


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