Mobile commerce will nearly double to $6.7 billion this year -- fueled by rising smartphone adoption and growing mobile Web use, according to a new eMarketer forecast. The market research firm estimates m-commerce sales will leap another 73% in 2012 to $11.6 billion.
The figures include sales of physical goods as well as travel and event tickets purchased via mobile, but not digital downloads or point-of-sale transactions through mobile devices. The estimates, which exclude purchases made from tablets, are based on meta-analysis of data from third-party research firms and overall trends in mobile ownership and use.
“Mobile commerce is growing at a fast clip -- and it’s acting as an engine of overall e-commerce growth, by converting potential brick-and-mortar sales to digital sales as consumers use their smartphones while shopping in-store,” said eMarketer principal analyst Jeffrey Grau, in an article posted Thursday.
M-commerce still represents only a fraction of total online retail sales, estimated by Forrester at $191 million this year. comScore predicts online holiday sales in 2011 will reach $37.6 billion.
Still, the growth of m-commerce has been underscored by holiday shopping trends to date. Findings from IBM’s Coremetrics, for instance, showed that 6.6% of people on Cyber Monday and 9.8% on Black Friday used a mobile device to make a purchase, compared to 2.3%, and 3.2%, respectively, a year ago. Separately, e-Bay-owned GSI Commerce reported a threefold (254%) increase in U.S. mobile sales on Black Friday from last year.
EMarketer forecasts that 37.5 million U.S. consumers ages 14 and over will make at least one purchase on their mobile phone next year, up from 26.8 million this year. Nearly all those buying via mobile will be smartphone owners, at 97% in 2012. Among smartphone users, 29% will engage in m-commerce this year, and 35% next year. Overall, 72.8 million mobile users will research or browse items on their phone in 2012, but will not necessarily make a purchase.
“For years, the trend has been for consumers to research products online, then go buy in-store,” noted Grau. “But as the industry improves its slate of mobile offerings, consumers are increasingly visiting stores to research products, then go buy something else on their mobile devices.”
That means brick-and-mortar retailers run the risk of being showrooms for Amazon.com and other online retailers. But Grau suggested that traditional retailers with a strong mobile presence could counter that threat by steering in-store shoppers to look online for more information and find out-of-stock sizes and items on their own mobile site or app.
Auction sites like eBay and flash sales sites such as HauteLook also benefit from rising m-commerce, as shoppers turn to their mobile devices to keeping tabs on time-sensitive deals. In that vein, eBay on Monday said shoppers purchased more than 2.5 times as many items using its eBay Mobile app on Black Friday this year compared to 2010.