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Mobile web exploding, but mobile sales lagging… for now

It’s no secret that the world has suddenly woken up to the mobile web explosion. Exponential statistics abound and atmospheric graphs shoot up and away from the X and Y axes as the growth is unprecedented in technological history. The internet will very soon be in the hands of practically every single person on this planet.

Recently research firm World Wide Worx exposed some of the findings of its Mobility 2011 report, which reveals that 39% of urban South Africans and 27% of rural users are now using the internet on their cellphones, which equals about 6 million South Africans. This number is growing by the minute.

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What does this mean for m-commerce? As an enabler, mobile banking is prevalent with 44% of urban cellphone users banking on their phones, with the rural figure not too far behind at 27%. Half of the respondents to the Mobility 2011 research — which includes 20 million South Africans aged 16 and above – stated that they had used mobile banking to purchase airtime, 24% to pay accounts and 17% to transfer funds between accounts, while 12% transferred money to other users and 11% made a purchase via their cellphone.

In terms of m-commerce this creates a burgeoning and largely untapped market. In the UK, Tesco Direct released research late last year claiming that one in ten UK consumers would do their Christmas shopping on their mobile phones. The study of 4 000 consumers also found that nearly half of the respondents would use their phones to look for gifts. The retail giant launched its first transactional mobile site last year after it found that 7% of online Tesco Direct customers visited the site using their mobile phones.

Clearly if you’re in e-commerce then you now need to think about m-commerce. Local e-commerce company WantItAll.co.za just revealed some of its mobile stats that confirms the worldwide trend.

Comparing analytics from December 2009 with December 2010, mobile traffic to the site is up 280%. When looking at a few of the most popular operating systems: Android is up 1200%, Blackberry 357% and iPhone 233%, with tablets now showing up strongly at approximately double Blackberry visitors.

Conversion rates to sales, however, are still low with iPhone showing 0.23% conversion, Blackberry 0.3% and the larger mobile form factor of the tablet showing the highest conversion rate at 0.75%.

Justin Drennan, founder of WantItAll, explains the drag in m-commerce sales and conversion: “This explosive growth is hard to track and we’re constantly working on improving and optimising for mobile. We have already implemented mimoney as a payment option and we’re in the process of rolling out the dedicated mobisite.

We think that South Africa still lags in terms of online payments in general, but trust in safety and security is gaining ground every day. Considering the dynamic mobile environment and penetration in this market, m-commerce could overtake traditional e-commerce sales in the very near future.”

Drennan goes on to state that global giant Amazon.com has just launched an app that lets you browse, search and purchase products directly from any Windows Phone 7 device: “The free app supports Windows Phone 7-specific swipes, allowing simple touchscreen browsing between product details, reviews, related items and 1-click purchasing. With e-commerce giants making moves like that, you’ve got to sit up and take notice!”

Caveat: Author of the article is a digital marketing consultant to WantItAll.co.za

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