Cellum Insights

Making sense of consumers’ many m-commerce demands

Barclays recently released a comprehensive report on the future of m-commerce. While focused on trends in the UK – where the bank sees nearly £32 billion ($49 billion) of retail sales being made via mobile devices by 2019 – it offers a wealth of data and insights applicable to markets around the world.

In fact, it contains so many useful facts and potential lessons that it could be easy to lose track of which may be most important.

confused-mobileTake the section on barriers to m-commerce. A summary by the industry site Let’s Talk Payments entitled “Why are Consumers Skeptical of Adopting Mobile Retail?” highlights a number of consumer complaints about using mobile devices for shopping, such as limited screen size and data plans, yet fails to single out the largest such concern (security, which was mentioned by more than 20% of respondents).

Given all the different reasons consumers say they are hesitant to jump into m-commerce, one can almost understand why many of the retailers polled by Barclays are themselves hesitant. (Only 10% said they planned to invest significantly in m-commerce, despite the fact that almost 20% thought that m-commerce would represent at least a quarter of their revenues within five years.)

At the same time, Barclays’ projections, as well as other surveys of ongoing market trends, show that however reluctant consumers and retailers are, growth in m-commerce is nothing short of phenomenal. In the UK, for example, first-quarter data show an astounding 44 percent of online payments were made using a mobile device.

So how can one reconcile all this?

For Cellum, the answer is to recognize that consumers have varied, complex and in many cases rapidly-evolving expectations for m-commerce services, and that such concerns can be broken down into two categories: security and everything else.

As Barclays’ survey underscores, the primary barrier to consumer adoption of m-commerce remains security. But as the market itself attests, once such concerns are adequately addressed, consumers quickly make the leap.


Most of the other concerns are ones that over time consumers will likewise move on from. This is certainly true with issues like device compatibility with mobile websites and fears about data charges, which will disappear as e-tailers uniformly adopt responsive designs optimized for all browsers, and bandwidth costs further drop. (In the meantime, the Barclays report found that 15% of retailers in the UK already offer free in-store Wi-Fi.) Even when it comes to concerns related to the inherent limitations of mobile commerce consumer reluctance may be fleeting. Rather than representing a firm barrier to m-commerce growth, the most notable such limitation – the smaller screen on a smartphone compared to PCs or tablets – is instead encouraging omni-channel, multi-device behavior on the side of both shopper and retailer.

For its part, Cellum has long anticipated such an outcome, leading to its development of a use case for online checkout in which the consumer can use a desktop to examine items in higher resolution and still finish a transaction with a smartphone – remotely, in-app or in-store.

So while recognizing and taking seriously the large number of varying concerns consumers may have about m-commerce, no one should expect that they represent a critical barrier to broad and deep adoption.