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M-Commerce: An M-Addict's Tale

 “Dad, you using that iPad?”

“Yes, hands-off.”

“How about the iPhone?”

“Yes.”

“The Mac Air?”

“Of course.”

“No you’re not. It’s closed.”

“Yes, I am.” I whip it open swiftly, just the way Steve Jobs showed us. “Look. Email.”

I am starting to feel like Gollum guarding the “precious” Ring. In the evening I am hoarding the devices on my ottoman, jumping from one to the other nervously, as if to prove to my family that I am indeed in need of them all. Bug off, moochers!

Not coincidentally, I am not only all-in for devices but also all-in for mobile commerce. The majority of my Amazon purchases now are occurring on the iPad in the evening and via that damned effective app that pushes devilishly accurate recommendations. The new iPhone 4S order was set up on the Apple Store app sitting on both my iPhone 4 and iPad. I recently used the new Five Guys hamburger shop app to place a party order of six large fries. And I pay my AT&T bill every month via its app.

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Maybe my daughter should swipe a device from me before I squander her tuition on mobile purchasing.

It turns out that multi-device “connecteds” like me are the optimal m-commerce early adopters. A new Ipsos OTX MediaCT study done with PayPal shows that tablet ownership drives mobile shopping. We knew from anecdotal evidence that tablets were being used for catalog browsing and buying, but as part of a larger device mix including smartphone ownership, users of both devices make about twice as many m-purchases as owners of smartphones alone.

The PayPal/Ipsos study finds that 12% of smartphone-only owners have made 20 or more m-commerce transactions in the last year, while 41% who own both smartphone and tablet have purchased 20 or more items via mobile. In fact, it appear that it’s actually tough for tablet owner not to buy something on a connected device, with only 14% reporting they have made fewer than 5 mobile purchases, compared to 43% of smartphone-only owners. 

PayPal Senior Director of Mobile Laura Chambers is calling this “couch commerce” and says that retailers are starting to recognize the trend by building more tablet-friendly Web sites. The researchers speculate that the larger screen of the tablet and its more navigable keyboard and touch mechanics make the platform more inviting for shopping.

The study also found that mobile devices could well be driving more consumption, with 63% of dual device owners admitting that they may be or certainly are spending more as a result of mobile commerce.

Retailers can capture more smartphone-only users by app-ifying the experience. When asked about which devices they preferred using in different circumstances, the respondents preferred tablets for buying via a Web site, but a smartphone for buying using an app. Interestingly, the phone is preferred also for its intimacy when buying “sensitive” product categories.

In many respects, mobility removes some of the friction still left in traditional Web e-commerce -- the point of sale is often apart from the point of inspiration. Tablet time and smartphone handiness dovetail perfectly with the evening hours when TV is driving product awareness, casual news browsing is highlighting new books and gadgetry, and my wife and I are discussing necessary errands and to-do lists, often involving buying something somewhere. Ordinarily we think of the m-commerce potential as being in-store or buying at the moment of need. But if you consider the ways in which the family purchase funnel really is shaped, then the biggest opportunity for m-commerce is to slip into the rhythm of decision-making.  

Or… it may well change your rhythms.

“What is in that Amazon box?” my wife asks.

“An air purifier.”

“An AIR PURIFIER?” 

“Half-price -- Amazon.”

“Give me the iPad.”

Families would be really great if they didn’t have, you know, spouses and children. 

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