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This is a Guest Post of an excellent piece written and posted by Michael Koploy, ERP Analyst, Software Advice (an online resource on retail technology), on his blog.

Mobile Payments and Mobile Commerce are two different things and are often confused. I am an expert on the latter and Michael has done a great job of laying out a great FAQ-formatted overview of the former. He contacted me and asked me if I would mind guest-posting. You can link to his post here, or simply read-on. Excellent work Michael.

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January 25, 201

According to US research advisory Gartner, mobile payments may be the next big thing for retailers. The firm predicted 38 percent growth of mobile payment users in 2011, totaling 141 million.

While this may seem like a lot, the industry still has a long way to go and there are a number of roadblocks ahead, according to Sandy Shen, Gartner Research Director. “The biggest hurdle is the need to change user behavior by convincing consumers to pay with mobile phones instead of cash and cards,” says Shen.

Retailers can play a large role in changing user behavior. While manufacturers can produce the phones to process mobile payments and merchant service providers can set up the networks, a lack of retailer support will lead to little (if any) mobile payment adoption.

The first step for retailers is to educate themselves about the technology, the ecosystem and the opportunity mobile payments afford. Software Advice, an online consultancy for point of sale systems, hears from a lot of retailers that are curious about mobile payments. Here are the top five questions they hear with their answers:

(1) What are mobile payments?
Mobile payments are payment transactions involving mobile devices and RF receiver terminals. Both mobile devices and terminals are equipped with RF chips to communicate via near field communication (NFC). The mobile devices communicate with the terminals through a virtual wallet application.

(2) What does a retailer need to do to accept mobile payments?
Outside of the other requirements for retailers to accept credit card transactions — merchant account, payment gateway, point of sale software, etc — retailers will need either an NFC-capable credit card machine or a standalone NFC receiver. Standalone receivers are often much cheaper — sometimes as little as a couple hundred dollars.

(3) How much will mobile payments cost the retailer?
The interchange rate for mobile device payments is the same as MasterCard PayPass and Visa payWave; the rate is higher for these transactions than for traditional swipe-and-sign payments. Visa lowered rates to spur NFC in Italy–it could do something similar in the US, but this is unknown at this point.

(4) Are there security issues that retailers need to be aware of?
NFC signals are transmitted at a short range of a few cm (and up to a few meters in some rare circumstances), so the hacker would have to be close to the mobile device, as well.
Additionally, virtual wallets require PIN passwords for access–making a stolen virtual wallet much less valuable than a stolen credit card. Most phones also have additional security features, such as home screen password-lock.

(5) What should a retailer do to prepare for mobile payments?
All of the individual players in this ecosystem–from the financial institutions to the consumers–are playing a game of wait-and-see. Retailers can do well by staying on-top of NFC-related news and testing out similar technologies available today (e.g., Google Places), as well as other NFC happenings in the community, such as the recently announced McDonald’s NFC awareness campaign in the UK.

For a full list of the top ten FAQs, check out Software Advice’s Mobile Payments: FAQs for Retailers.

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Again, this is a Guest Post of an excellent piece written and posted by Michael Koploy, ERP Analyst, Software Advice (an online resource on retail technology), on his blog.

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Over the last 4 or 5 years there has been vigorous debate regarding when, exactly, the true potential of mobile will be realized. Mobile mapping, mobile TV, check-ins, mobile payments, push ads, games, QR Codes, NFC, Daily Deals, SMS, virtual mobile currency, pop-up ads, barcode scanning, coupons, and a litany of others have had their moment in the sun, but none have generated commerce upside at a truly transformational level.

Turning Point 2011

Finally, as 2011 came to a close, we saw real, tracked and reported numbers that were far too numerically impressive to be dismissed as a fad or trend. These numbers were tied to Mobile Commerce.

When I say mobile commerce, I do not mean mobile payments, which I define as paying for items at checkout, using your mobile phone. I an referring to online sales converted on mobile websites specifically designed and formatted for this purpose. Example: m.finishline.com

Retailers & Brands Lag Behind, Fueling The Opportunity

For years, online retailers and brands waited, while their customers flocked to web-connected smartphones and, as a result, small screens are now crammed with large format websites never designed for this purpose.

In late 2011 retailers and brands finally started waking up and launching mobile optimized sites, and this fueled explosive growth and big profits for those still out ahead of the curve.

Mobile consumers can finally land on mobile-optimized commerce-enabled websites and the traffic to these sites can be converted into transactions in a trusted, secure environment. These mobile conversion metrics are the key and the resulting revenue numbers are real, undeniable, and impactful.

Changing Expectations

As more brands and retailers launch mobile commerce sites, consumer expectations have changed rapidly. In fact, most consumers surveyed now expect mobile sites to not only function, but to work better than  standard e-commerce sites.

Retailers and big brands are finally realizing that mobile commerce is not some fringe distraction to their e-commerce team, but, rather, a way to add 10-20% to their bottom line in incremental revenue. That’s right, retailers and brands are not stealing from Peter to pay Paul, and most see no drop in “traditional” online sales. It’s all upside.

For athletic shoe retail giant Finish Line, their mobile site now makes up 14% of their total online traffic. For adult online retail leader Adam & Eve, mobile commerce accounted for a whopping 8% of their total revenue, only 2 weeks after it was launched.

Still not convinced that mobile commerce has ushered in a revenue-fueled turning point that should/will change the entire tenor of the mobile space? Here are the numbers.

2011 Mobile Commerce Stats

-PayPal saw a 397% increase in consumers shopping via PayPal Mobile on Cyber Monday 2011, vs 2010.

-Rue La La saw an almost 200% increase in mobile sales on Cyber Monday 2011 vs 2010.

-Ebay’s mobile commerce doubled to $5Billion+ in 2011

-Ebay’s Black Friday mobile commerce sales were up 516%, over 2010.

-2011 mobile commerce sales were up 91.4% over 2010.
– In 2012, mobile commerce is expected to increase another 73.1% to $11.6 billion.
-The average mobile commerce purchase was $123 (vs. $87 for purchases from desktop PCs).
-Shopping by mobile users doubled from 1.87% to 3.87% of all online purchases in the past 9 months!

-During the 2011 Holiday season, 44% of all Google searches for last minute gifts and store locator terms were from mobile devices

-Of consumers surveyed, 70% use their smartphones in stores and 77% have contacted a business via mobile.

64% of smartphone owners age 18-24 used a smartphone to find a deal this Holiday season.

-There were 20Million mobile bar code scans in Q3 2011, a 40% increase from Q3 2010.

-According to IBM, mobile traffic made up 18.3% of all online traffic on Christmas day 2011.

Conclusions

Mobile commerce transactions can occur anytime, anywhere and are being initiated on smartphones carried religiously by almost 50% of Americans. Online sales are no longer occurring only in front of a desktop or laptop, but anywhere and anytime. Retailers and brands should take notice.

Even more importantly, mobile commerce sales can be triggered by real world interactions with marketing initiatives most retailers and brands are already paying for! Printed mailings or catalogs, in-store point of purchase displays, peer to peer recommendations, signage, social media campaigns, emails, etc can all serve as mobile trigger points, when they are accessed by mobile consumers. The (largely untracked) digital media marketing spend already occurring can be tapped to drive mobile commerce, with tracked results. This means that smart brands (or their agencies) can (and should) be able to adjust these campaigns on the fly, to maximize ROI, in the form of tracked incremental mobile commerce revenue.

The biggest takeaway here is directed toward online retailers or brands who still do not have an integrated mobile commerce solution. Read and digest the numbers above and ask yourself this simple question, “How easy it is for a mobile consumer to visit my website and convert a sale?” (Hint: Try it!).

If you do not have a mobile site, the answer will be painfully obvious. Make fixing this your 2012 New Year’s resolution!

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Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is a mobile LBS marketing expert, and VP of Sales and Business Development for  Unbound CommerceContact Wilson today to learn more. Mobile: 303-249-2083.

Some of the stats in this post were compiled from various sources by Gabrielle Kalika of Mobile Marketer. I have added added more my own, also compiled from various sources. All stats can be verified, via Google search.

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Mobile Marketer Senior Editor Giselle Tsirulnik recently interviewed me, regarding the role that SMS can play in mobile commerce. I am re-posting this interview and expanding some of my answers.

I hope this post gives retailers and brands insights into ways that “Trigger Point Marketing ™” like SMS can be used to link tracked mobile commerce sales with the social sharing of the specifics of  a product or price, by customers. When consumers share the news about something they recently bought among their social network, the effect can be powerful, as long as retailers can track the resulting lift via mobile commerce transactions.

Here is an extended version of what I said:

Q: What is the benefit (for a brand or retailer) of having a consumer SMS/MMS a product they are viewing via a mobile commerce site,  to a friend?

A: This sort of social sharing means the retailer or brand has a new touchpoint delivered instantly to a highly prequalified audience. Since the text arrives from a trusted friend, the person who receives it is very likely to open the text, read it, and click on the link. It stands to reason that the conversion rates for the recipient of the SMS would be many times higher than traditional marketing blasts.

By providing the tools needed for consumers to repackage and redeliver a marketing message to a highly prequalified audience within their own social graph, retailers can tap into a very potent mixture of personal referrals and siphon off additional mobile commerce sales.

Q: How could this potentially drive sales for a retailer?

A: Smart retailers are increasingly offering their customers tools whereby they can share the deal they just got. Word of mouth and personal referrals consistently ranks amongst the highest-ranked reasons consumers visit a store or retail website. If the retailer has a mobile-optimized site, an SMS sent by a customer can serve as a delivery mechanism for a deep link right into the section of the mobile commerce site where the exact product that was purchased (or product grouping) is queued up and ready to buy for the text recipient. This can directly, positively impact mobile commerce sales and, more importantly, can be tracked, measured and even used as a way to reward consumers who have spread the word.

Q: Do you think more retailers will be incorporating SMS into their mobile sites in 2012?

A: Yes, retailers interested in stay relevant will utilize a variety of new ways to have hyperlinked touchpoints spread by pleased, loyal consumers.  In a few clicks, the recipient of the text message can buy the item their friend bought and also have the opportunity to pass the word along. By adding this option pre or post-purchase, retailers can infuse their mobile commerce sites with

As SMS starts to replace email with younger generations and more and more retailers build and launch mobile commerce retail sites, this method of “Trigger Point Marketing(tm)” is a great way to drive tracked ROI. SMS is alive and well and retailers should certainly add it to their marketing mix, in support of mcommerce.

Q: Why is SMS a good medium to encourage sharing?

A: An SMS text message is instant and it is personal and it generally comes from a known, trusted sender. For these reasons, a whopping 98% of all text messages sent are opened by the recipient. No other form of digital marketing even comes close.

SMS also opens up a new channel of communication between the retailer and the consumer and builds a retailers database of contacts, since the mobile commerce platform captures the mobile phone numbers of both the sender and the recipient.

Q: What are some other ways SMS can be incorporated into a mobile commerce site?

A: When integrated into a mobile commerce site as a “social share feature”, SMS can also be tapped to distribute pre- and post-purchase links to a product in a mobile commerce site, within the social graph of the purchaser

SMS can also be used, via short codes, to drive traffic to a mcommerce site, when a hot link is sent back to the consumer, by the retailer. Additionally, SMS can be used to sign up customers to loyalty programs or allow them to opt-in for announcements of new arrivals, etc. If a shopping cart is abandoned, SMS can be used to ping the customer who did not complete their transaction, to remind them that their cart is full and they forgot to check out.

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The Final Word: Mobile commerce is no longer an option for retailers and brands that sell consumer direct. Retailers that do not have an integrated mcommerce site are losing sales every minute, literally.

The linkage between proven, incremental sales and mobile marketing has long been elusive. This fact has kept a barrier up between the ecommerce team and the marketing dept. This is finally changing and the fact that socially driven messaging can be infused with deep links within a mobile commerce page means that these two worlds are finally set to merge. When this happens, marketing will be able to see a quantifiable return on their spend and the ecommerce team will have a whole new revenue stream via mobile commerce that is, in turn, supported by mobile marketing. A win-win. Remember, SMS is but one method, and QR codes and Near Field Communication (NFC) are also viable ways to drive proven, new mobile sales via”Trigger Point Marketing ™”.

The silos between marketing and ecommerce must be demolished. The retailers and brands that realize this and embrace this notion fastest will win. The rest will be left behind.

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Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is a former Tele Atlas exec, LBS consultant, and now leads Sales and Business Development for  Unbound Commerce.

Contact Wilson today to learn more. Mobile: 303-249-2083.

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