Dr KF Lai (Asia) - The Unrelenting Adoption of Mobile Commerce

Online purchases were relatively unknown when the internet was made standard in developed countries. Dr KF Lai, CEO of Buzzcity, looks at the explosion of mobile commerce and its effect on the public and private sector.

If you told anyone you made an online purchase 15 years ago, they would say that you were crazy. Today, internet purchases have become a normal part of our lives, having proven to be stable, secure and cost effective by a majority of users.

Findings from our Mobile Lifestyle Survey show over half of respondents (53%) already make remote purchases via mail, phone or internet. Downloads are the most popular items purchased (23%), followed by physical products such as DVDs (11%) and tickets for entertainment and travel (10%). The level of trust and openness toward online transactions has grown, and users are ready and willing to take the plunge when it comes to this.

Yet there are millions of people in both developed and developing markets whose primary connection to the internet is via a mobile device. By 2015, mobile commerce will grow into a $119 billion global industry, up from $18.3 billion last year, according to analyst Mark Beccue of ABI Research. So, it's surprising to those of us who work with mobile internet, that the leap from fixed internet-based e-Commerce to mobile commerce hasn't been quicker.

A recent report by Accenture , which surveyed 1,100 "tech forward" respondents in 11 countries, indicates that the mobile market in Asia is growing at over 25% per year. 69% of Asian survey respondents indicated they prefer using mobile phones for most payments. Our Mobile Lifestyle Survey reveals that 46% respondents state that they would use their phones for financial services (money transfers, bill payments and loan applications), if these services were available to them. That number is only going to grow.

So with consumer demand already present, why has mobile commerce not matured sooner? There are several reasons for this.

Initially the screens of mobile devices were too small, and the processors too slow, to be able to replicate the multimedia activities and browsing experience common to the PC. Industry analysts have been predicting for many years that mobile commerce will mature, however it has only been recently that this has become a reality.

While banks have been the pioneers in mobile commerce, such as Kenya's mPesa - which has set the global standard in mobile financial services - there are other industries that have been jumping on the mobile bandwagon in recent years. One particular industry that has seen a surge in demand for mobile content is travel. A survey by digital travel content firm Frommer's Unlimited, revealed that 52% of respondents said that they were most likely to access travel information on their mobile devices when travelling compared to 27% in 2010.

The travel industry is leading the way in sharing product info from the planning stage, right until the consumer reaches his/her destination. This desire for content will eventually lead to m-commerce services such as booking flights or hotel rooms via mobile. With the proliferation of mobile email and mobile browsing, the growth of multimedia messaging, mobile music, social networking, and even location-based services, means mobile is indeed the next wave for travel-related services.

So, it is just a matter time before mobile commerce explodes.

By Dr KF Lai, CEO of BuzzCity, a global mobile media company. BuzzCity is a mobile media company offering brand owners and agencies access to a global advertising network on the mobile internet.