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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!

_______________________________

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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