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Is m-commerce finally going mainstream?

.Tesco’s decision to launch its first transactional mobile service suggests that m-commerce is ready to enter the mainstream, but when will smaller brands with less financial muscle follow suit?

The news that supermarket giants Asda and Tesco are both looking to launch m-commerce channels is a significant milestone for the mobile industry.

The fact that Tesco is eschewing the option of launching its m-commerce strategy with a glamorous iPhone app also shows a sophistication in its thinking.

Less detail is clear on how Asda will broach the sector but I imagine it too will target the mass market, not just iPhone or Android users.

Add to that the purported successes of M&S and Ocado’s m-commerce strategies and all appears well in the sector.

However, if it was as simple as all of that then m-commerce would have taken off years ago. Unfortunately, it’s a little bit more complicated.

A recent survey of large and medium-sized retailers from mobile agency Sponge claimed that two-thirds of respondents have yet to launch optimised mobile sites.

Less than half of those retailer with mobile-optimised sites have transactional capabilities, according to the study. This demonstrates the scale of just how far m-commerce has to go before it can declare itself a mainstream venture.

The dilemma facing most retailers is just how do they make any investments in m-commerce worth their while?

M&S and Ocado target comparatively well-off consumers, so it’s not unreasonable to think that many of their customers will have smartphones. Hence they can forgo the mass mobile audience without thinking they are alienating too much of their core customers.

But most UK retailers target very fragmented mobile audiences and are faced with the dilemma of where to start addressing m-commerce.

Tesco has signalled its determination to take m-commerce into the mainstream by launching on Nokia’s Ovi Store – a platform synonymous with the word fragmentation.

However, I doubt that most other retailers will have the research and development budgets to match Tesco’s and really make m-commerce a mainstream audience.

So while the Tesco Grocey app’s arrival into the Ovi Store is a milestone – and a bold move from the retailer – it does not mean that m-commerce’s entry into the mainstream is a foregone conclusion.

Source : Ronan Shields -

05 August 2010
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Thank you for the excellent presentation that you gave at Woodbury Park on Thursday morning. It was very interesting and thought-provoking for our Retail members. The feedback has been excellent.

Martin Elliott. Chief Executive - Home Hardware.

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