It was not so long ago that headlines on most digital news publications were discussing NFC (near field communication) payments as the next big thing. A few big merchants were gearing up for a slew of customers to come in and pay using their smartphones at the registers. But NFC never really took off, and customers don’t really seem to care for its resurgence. It seemed a stretch to me from the very beginning. The idea of using a smartphone as payment method creates no new convenience for the consumer. Why would one opt to use their smartphone instead of their credit card, if they are already in the store? But one thing smartphone users are utilizing in growing numbers is their mobile browser as a shopping system.
In the past few weeks I have purchased more items using apps like Amazon and company websites versus going to the mall or store. There is a convenience and comfort level of being able to browse through entire catalogs or items that is unmatched by in-store perusing or even traditional desktop or laptop computers. Mobile commerce or M-commerce is growing rapidly. According to research from IBM, during last year’s holiday shopping season, 14.6 percent of all online sessions on a retailer’s site were initiated from a mobile device (up from 5.6 percent the year before), and sales from mobile devices reached 11 percent versus 5.5 percent in December 2010.
But given the fact that there are 5.9 billion mobile subscribers (87 percent of the world population) one would think that those online shopping number should be much higher. But when it comes to most retailers, their mobile options are far from adequate. Instead of optimizing their mobile sites to create higher engagement and purchases many companies choose to push their own apps instead. But store applications are not downloaded at high volumes because that detracts from the ease of the mobile browser. Nielsen notes that “smartphone owners of both genders prefer retailers’ mobile websites over mobile apps.”
Companies need to start rethinking how they approach their mobile websites. It is no surprise that Amazon is number one in online shopping because they offer a convenience that is unmatched. The one-click purchase saves times and provides impulse buyers an easy transaction. Amazon also provides a safe and secure payment scheme that has gained the trust of millions of people across the globe. Once major brands begin to optimize their mobile sites for browsing and purchasing the number of online purchases will undoubtedly increase. M-commerce, unlike NFC, is only going to become more important, and hopefully companies that complain about Amazon’s unfair sales advantage, decide to actually do something about it.