Survey: More See Mobile Phones As 'Retail Tool Kit'


U.S. consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with purchasing items from mobile phones, even those that have no direct connection to said devices.

According to an online survey of 1,000 adults conducted by the Mobile Marketing Association, 17% used their mobile phones to purchase applications, ringtones and other content. Additionally, 6% used their phones to receive coupons or discounts on items, and 6% used their phones to purchase physical goods or non-mobile content or services.

"It's taken a couple of years, but they've figured out the mobile phone is really a tool kit, and one of the tools it unlocks is this thing called the retail environment," Peter Johnson, vice president of market intelligence for the MMA, tells Marketing Daily. "If we had done this survey two or three years ago, I would guess almost all respondents would have used it to purchase ringtones or wallpaper."



Perhaps not surprisingly, the top users of mobile commerce are adults between 25 and 34, and owners of smartphones. According to the study, more than half of iPhone owners and 34% of BlackBerry owners used their phones to purchase content in the past month.

"All of the folks who have those phones are clearly doing significantly different kinds of mobile commerce," Johnson says. Factors include familiarity with the phone's purchase process (like the App Store), a better Web experience and market penetration, Johnson says.

Notably, the shift away from content for phones, such as ringtones, music and wallpaper, is also moving the transactions away from wireless carriers toward third parties such as PayPal, banks and credit card companies. According to the survey, 56% of mobile content purchases were made through a carrier, while 43% used another form of payment.

"This is a change not just in quantity, but quality, too," Johnson says. "This strong and growing adoption highlights the reach, effectiveness and trustworthiness of the mobile channel for a wide variety of purchases, including physical goods and services."

With all of those factors expected to increase in the near term, mobile commerce usage should only accelerate, Johnson says. "Six months from now, I think we would expect that we're going to get significant higher levels of usage," he says. "I would expect roughly a 25% net increase in mobile commerce usage in the next six months."

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