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M-commerce trajectory steep as more consumers buy via mobile

Mobile commerce is still small compared to the overall ecommerce market, but m-commerce sales are on a steep upward trajectory, thanks in part to increasing adoption of smartphones and rising mobile internet usage, according to a new forecast by eMarketer.

EMarketer estimates mobile commerce sales will reach $6.7 billion this year in the US—a tiny fraction of overall retail sales, to be sure, but a 91.4 percent increase over 2010. Next year, sales will rise another 73.1 percent to $11.6 billion.

US m-commerce sales 2010 to 2015

"Mobile commerce is growing at a fast clip—and it's acting as an engine of overall ecommerce growth, by converting potential brick-and-mortar sales to digital sales as consumers use their smartphones while shopping in-store," said eMarketer principal analyst Jeffrey Grau, author of a forthcoming report on mobile buying.

EMarketer's estimates of mobile sales are based on a meta-analysis of data from research firms as well as overall trends in mobile ownership and usage. M-commerce sales include sales of physical goods as well as travel and event tickets purchased via mobile, but exclude digital downloads and usage of mobile phones as a point-of-sale payment mechanism. EMarketer's estimates for m-commerce sales do not include purchases made from tablet devices.

EMarketer forecasts 37.5 million US consumers ages 14 and up will make at least one purchase on their mobile phone next year, up from 26.8 million this year. The vast majority of that group will be smartphone owners, at 97 percent in 2012. Overall, 72.8 million mobile users will research or browse items on their phone next year but not necessarily make a purchase.

US mobile buyers 2010 to 2015

"For years, the trend has been for consumers to research products online, then go buy in-store," said Grau. "But as the industry improves its slate of mobile offerings, consumers are increasingly visiting stores to research products, then go buy something else on their mobile devices."

It means brick-and-mortar retailers run an ever-greater risk of becoming showrooms for Amazon.com and other online retailers—though the shift to mobile shopping can benefit them as well, Grau added.

"If a retailer has robust mobile offerings, it can steer in-store shoppers to look online for more information or find out-of-stock sizes and items on its own mobile site or app," said Grau, "retaining the sale via a different channel."

Auction sites like eBay and flash sales sites like HauteLook also benefit significantly from rising mobile commerce, as the convenience of the mobile channel tends to attract shoppers keeping tabs on time-sensitive deals, Grau added.

For more stories like this, visit the Trends/Statistics research center.

(Photo by Andy Rennie.)

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