As wireless technology improves, consumers will use handheld devices to shop for a range of goods and services, and e-businesses can profit by providing user-friendly devices and targeted services that lend themselves to wireless shopping, according to a study released Tuesday by consulting firm Accenture.
Wireless technology will enable e-commerce to “reshape whole industries” as people stay connected around the clock through mobile computers, embedded sensors and other devices that can all communicate with each other, according to Accenture.
“Wireless will be bigger and more important than anyone imagines,” the firm said.
‘Ubiquitous’ and ‘Universal’
E-commerce and m-commerce will evolve into “u-commerce … a world where economic activity is ubiquitous, unbounded by the traditional definitions of commerce, and universal,” Accenture said.
“We believe it is in the always-on world of u-commerce that the real value of the ‘e’ and ‘m’ will be realized,” said John Beck, director of research at Accenture’s Institute for Strategic Change. “U-commerce is not a replacement for anything companies are doing today, but an extension of it. And it will be mandatory, not optional.”
The study predicts the worldwide market for wireless, Internet-ready devices will soar 630 percent by 2005. In the United States, mobile devices will account for US$20 billion in e-commerce transactions.
“For those able to leverage the unique quality of these devices and tailor services and products that tap into the customer’s location, context and personal preferences, the opportunity is staggering,” the report said.
The Human Element
Accenture urged companies to keep in mind the “human element” of the trend rather than “heading straight for mobile commerce.”
For hardware makers, that means making devices “more intimate, personal and social,” offering them in a range of colors and styles, providing voice capabilities for users who find text communication “cold,” and starting with services that “encourage easy and frequent contact,” Accenture said.
For e-tailers, the report said, “mobile devices provide an unprecedented opportunity to detect the moment when a potential customer is in the right frame of mind to buy — and reach the customer with an appropriate, and welcome, message.”
Since mobile devices can show where a customer is at any given moment, they lend themselves to very targeted marketing, the study pointed out.Wireless devices can also be turned into “electronic wallets” that allow consumers to make “cash” or credit purchases in local or foreign currencies, Accenture said.
Sizing Things Up
The study’s authors cautioned against using a “one-size-fits-all approach” to mobile e-commerce. Consumers, they said, want a “tailored information experience,” and companies would do well to understand how the “trade-offs” among the various communication options in today’s market can be best used to meet future needs.
The study was based on the results of an online survey of 3,562 mobile-device owners in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Finland and Germany, and on interviews with companies working on wireless data communications.