You might have seen in the news recently that eBay conducted some research into mobile shopping.
After having seen the popularity of shopping via mobile phones explode among consumers over the past year as they became more comfortable with using their new smartphones, we thought it would be interesting to measure what effect this new trend could have on the British economy. And the results were truly startling.
Our research (carried out by retail specialists Verdict) projects that by 2016, mcommerce could deliver a boost of £4.5 billion to the British economy, and a further £13 billion by 2021.
This is potentially huge news for sellers out there, who are already able to reach millions of UK buyers via our smartphone apps. But if there's one thing that could hold this enormous opportunity back, however, it's the reliability of mobile broadband available in the UK.
We discovered that while the average mobile shopper spends roughly £138, as many as a third of consumers never finish their transactions because of erratic network coverage and slow connection speeds. In fact as much as 16% of the UK could be identified as a mobile commerce "notspot", where problems with network coverage mean that shoppers spend 20% less than the national average via their mobiles.
And while some of those worst affected "notspots" were sparsely populated areas like the Scottish highlands, rural Wales and rural counties of England, we also found that mobile shopping is underperforming in certain heavily populated areas like central London. Here broadband reliability and coverage are acting as a brake on the potential mobile retail market.
After publishing this data we then submitted our findings to the communications regulator, Ofcom, which is currently deciding how best to sell off the rights to the 4G spectrum that will form the next generation of mobile broadband. We called on Ofcom to take action to support mobile commerce and help the sector realise its potential.
Over the past two years, we've seen mobile shopping move from being an interesting innovation to accounting for $2 billion in revenue in annual revenue. It's an enormous opportunity that sellers in the UK and beyond can capitalise on, provided they're able to provide a valuable shopping experience via the mobile. Whether this takes the form of a mobile-optimised e-commerce site, a dedicated app or selling via a channel such as eBay's mobile apps, it's a potential money-spinner that's too big to ignore.
What's your experience of selling to consumers via mobile? Are more of your buyers shopping via their mobile phones, or are you listing items via our smartphone apps? Tell us about it in the discussions on our community boards.