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    September 2012
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    Mobile Commerce is Here to Stay

    Gerald Trites, FCA, CPA

    The world of retail is changing again, and this change is a lasting one. It involves the use of mobile devices to conduct business transactions –smart phones, tablets and the like.

    Mobile commerce (or M-Commerce for short) involves all the functions of ordinary retail transactions. To understand what M-Commerce means, just take a few moments to think about what the average customer does to make a purchase. First they identify a want. Then they search out various products that might satisfy this want. Then they evaluate the different options and make a decision. Finally they make the purchase and pay for it.

    So, when you want to get into M-Commerce, you need to have websites that will look good on mobile devices, that can provide a variety of details about products, and that can actually execute orders and allow payment for them.

    In many cases, M-Commerce takes place when the customer identifies the product and then goes to the place of business and makes the purchase in the conventional manner. This option should not be too difficult, but in either case, it is important that the customer can find the place of business and the directions from her or his current location. In other cases, in service industries, it is important that reservations can easily be made, for example, for restaurants and shows.

    In many cases, the customer location can be identified with map software, such as Google Maps or Bing. So it’s important for the business address and contact information to be readily visible on such maps.

    Location is also important for location based marketing. This is a technique still relatively in its infancy, but one that is likely to grow quickly. It means that a business location can advertise to customers in its vicinity of perhaps even identify a potential customer in its vicinity. For example, if a customer is near a particular location, and opens a browser, advertisements would appear on the browser. Specials can be offered this way, hopefully drawing in the customers.

    If the customer wishes to pay for the goods while on a mobile device, this should be easy for them to do, using a credit card or some convenient payment method. Also, if they wish to pay with their mobile device when they arrive at the store, that should also be possible. Often it isn’t now, but soon will be. So there are many facets of mobile commerce ranging throughout the chain of activities that make up the retail sales process.

    Some businesses are implementing M-Commerce by adding these features onto their existing systems on an ad-hoc basis. However, what they should be doing is developing a Mobile Commerce Strategy first, including an analysis of their needs and how their customers are likely to interact with them. Then they can incorporate those procedures into their systems so that they can be implemented on a comprehensive basis. The strategy is important because it enables the business to focus on the peculiarities of their own business and to make sure that their mobile commerce objectives fit well with the company’s overall strategic objectives.

    The MONEY® Network