Stocking the Shelves for M-Commerce

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

If you’re waiting for the full-blown arrival of shopping over mobile devices, hold the phone.

The fact is that while m-commerce is possible today in the U.S., its slow take-up by consumers has mobile shopping in a chicken/egg conundrum. It’s feasible for a retailer to open a fully transactional shop inside the mobile world, but the majority are resisting until they see the shoppers at their wireless thresholds with cash in hand.

Forrester Research expects m-commerce to comprise only $6 billion this year, 2% of the total spent in online shopping. By 2016, mobile purchasing will reach $31 billion — still only about 7% of the online buying total, and about 1% of all sales.


Greater customer acceptance could change that modest outlook. Rather than pushing to become another checkout POS, mobile seems poised to build its status as a shopper support system, enhancing what the channel can offer shoppers both in the aisles and at home flipping through catalogs.

Browsing inventory is still pretty much an eye-chart exercise on mobile, even over a large smartphone screen. But a number of apps have launched that put retailer catalogs onto tablets, where the touchscreens and ability to click through to merchant websites may get users more accustomed to buying away from their PCs.

Free apps such as The Find and Padopolis’ Catalog Spree have been out for months, giving tablet users a way to view dozens of catalogs from one location. Each has unique operational features and the ability to click through to retailers’ websites to buy. But the field really enlarged in late August with the rollout of Google Catalogs, which offers an inventory of big catalog names from Anthropologie, Crate and Barrel and L.L. Bean, to Macy’s, Sephora and Williams-Sonoma.

Google Catalogs comes with some hard-to-match enhancements, such as the option to locate products in nearby stores with a button click. That last may not help drive m-commerce, but it — and Google’s undoubted brand power — could encourage shoppers to integrate mobile devices into their purchase behavior, online and off.


Pure-play online sellers have been at the forefront of mobile commerce. In part that’s because merchants such as Amazon and eBay already have users accustomed to registering and creating accounts, often including credit card information.

A new app from Amazon, Amazon Student, lets users scan barcodes of textbooks in their campus store and get instant quotes for what those texts would cost, new or used, from the online retailer. The app can be linked to a user’s Amazon account, making buying over the phone very simple.

Same thing when it comes time to unload those books: Users can simply use their phones to scan in the barcodes again and find out what Amazon will give for the old texts in trade-in credit via an Amazon gift card. The same can be done with DVDs, games and electronics.

To drive adoption, Amazon is offering six months of Amazon Prime service, including free two-date shipping and release-date delivery, to anyone who registers a new account over Amazon Student using an .edu email address.


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