I booked my first hotel night via a mobile device a year ago.

I didn’t even think about the fact that it would be considered an “mCommerce” transaction, as I simply booked it directly on the hotel group’s Web site via the browser of my mobile phone. The site wasn’t actually optimized for mobile devices, but it was possible to enter my credit card details via a secure Web transaction. That’s not ideal, so I wonder how many mobile transactions that firm has missed simply because it doesn’t provide a compelling user experience.

 European mobile commerce is still at an early stage. Digital content is still the primary product purchased via mobile devices, but European consumers show growing interest in using their mobile phones for all sorts of shopping activities. I have recently contributed to a new report on the state of mobile commerce in Europe, written by my colleagues serving eBusiness Channel and Strategy Professionals. The report reveals that:

  • Buying products from a mobile phone hasn’t taken off, as a mere 2% of respondents reported purchasing products from their mobile phone and only 5% are actually interested in doing so.
  • Only 16% of online buyers have used their mobile phone for a shopping-related activity such as researching products, checking on the status of an order, or locating a nearby store to buy a specific product. 
  • Italian, Swedish, and UK online buyers have warmed up the most to mobile commerce.

While a minority of consumers use their mobile phones for transactions, smartphone owners and mobile-savvy users are much more likely to use the mobile Internet to research products/services, to locate a nearby store, and to compare prices on a mobile device while in a shop. For example, data from our European Technographics® Benchmark Survey Q2 2010 shows that up to 28% of European iPhone owners research products for purchase, while 13% of them report purchasing products via mobile at least monthly. That’s the reason why many retailers and brands are starting to embrace the mobile channel and are optimizing their mobile Web sites or launching mobile applications.

Other than eBay — which expects mobile users to generate between $1.5 billion and $2 billion in transactions by the end of 2010 — most mobile commerce players report limited direct revenues. While a few players are reporting mCommerce revenues of millions of euros per month, the majority are still looking at hundreds of thousands of euros.

Moving forward, this opportunity will grow and mobile will increasingly be an integrated part of firms’ multichannel strategies. Pulling together mobile loyalty schemes, mobile couponing, and mobile marketing at the point of sale will drive consumer adoption of mCommerce.

Longer term and taking into account Near Field Communications (NFC) and barcode standardization (under the GS1 umbrella), there is little doubt that mobile will increasingly be a component of the future of retail.