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TechnologyNov 17, 2010

How to Select an M-Commerce Solution

Mimi Tang

According to International Telecommunication Union, at the end of 2009, there were over 4.6 billion people worldwide that had mobile phone accounts, a number which is expected to reach 5 billion by the end of 2010. Today, through mobile devices, you have the internet at your fingertips, and the ability to purchase a dress, send flowers, and reserve a hotel room all while sitting at your daughter’s piano recital. The ability to perform transactions via mobile devices has changed the way our generation does business. If you are trying to expose your product to a large market on a small budget, then the selection of a successful mobile commerce (M-Commerce) solution is paramount to your business model. The following characteristics should be considered when choosing how your company pursues its mobile commerce solutions:

  1. GUI – A successful application deserves a simple, clean, and slick GUI that is intuitive to the user. When the user searches for a product over their mobile device, the page should automatically divert users to the mobile version. Design is important and every piece of screen real estate is significant. The check out process should also be abbreviated. It is important to cut out unnecessary registration steps where available and always remembering the proverbial “less is more” concept.

  2. Availability and Speed – A Gomez study found that two out of three users have encountered a problem when accessing web sites on their mobile phones, with slow load time being the number one performance issue. 85% of participants said they are only willing to retry a mobile web site two times or less if it does not work initially. Therefore, it is essential that the right amount of money and time is spent on evaluating the technology needs of your application. The right infrastructure support should be present and the right resources should be allocated in the most effective way possible. In addition, mobile commerce strategies often require the use of third party vendors (e.g., mobile advertising providers). Ensure that good SLAs are in place to meet the demand of your users. Users want to spend their money as quickly and easily as possible, so help them do just that.

  3. Security According to McAfee, on average more than 58% of subscribers voiced a concern about specific security risks with mobile phones. In other words, people are highly likely to second guess their purchases when security is a concern. Therefore, selecting a secure application becomes a hugely important element in boosting sales. A secure application should promote trust and confidence between the consumer and product, though it is often times a secondary thought in the development lifecycle. Don’t let this be true with your application. Consider an application that achieves the perfect combination of great usability and strong security. In addition, it is important that the application addresses potential risks and threats exposed to users and unique to mobile devices early on in the design process such as users leaving their mobile devices powered on and unlocked in the back of a taxi cab.

  4. Adaptability and Integration – When selecting a successful application, you should be mindful of other business applications and processes that are already in place, such as order fulfillment and back-office systems. The application should require little to no re-engineering of other applications, and it should be easily accessible via the different profiles that exist (iPhone, Android, etc.). Imagine an application that can work across different system applications and that can be used all over the world.

The future of M-Commerce – M-Commerce is constantly evolving. If you are trying to outperform your competitors, you should understand the current characteristics of a successful mobile commerce solution, but always keep your eyes on the prize. That is precisely what Apple and Google executives are doing. Rumors suggest that they are researching the next up-and-coming M-commerce applications, such as the successful mobile payment company, Boku. Don’t let the name fool you; Boku gives users the ability to purchase items online in seconds. Users enter in their mobile phone number for the transaction and a text message is instantly sent to confirm the transaction. The user simply replies with “Y” and the mobile phone checks to ensure that it is not going over the mobile provider’s limits. Boku will message a bill receipt to the user and the transaction will show up on the phone bill.

Other technologies, such as Near Field Communication (NFC), are also changing the way we view M-Commerce. NFC involves a chip being inserted in your phone, which turns your mobile device into a wallet or a credit card. This new technology will allow users to wave their mobile phone over a contact bar in order to pay for items at retailers, similar to how bus passes work today. Rumors are swirling that Apple’s next iPhone, the iPhone 5, will be incorporating an NFC. Companies like Square also offer an NFC solution which allows users to swipe their credit card black strip under a device that is placed on their mobile phone in order to receive payments.

Ultimately, companies that integrate characteristics of a smart mobile commerce solution and express great innovation will be highly successful in exposing their product as well as in changing the way our generation does business.