It won't be long before you hear a voice mail message that sounds something like this: "I can't take your call right now because I'm busy shopping on my phone. I'll call you back after I complete my purchase."
Welcome to the world of mobile commerce, mCommerce for short. It's the lingo du jour and latest entry in the ever-expanding digital glossary of the 21st century. Japanese shoppers have been using mCommerce for nearly five years, said Dan Wright, CEO of mPoria (www.mporia.com), a Seattle company making it easy to connect stores with phone users in our country.
"Trends in the U.S. follow Japan five or six years later," Wright said. "We've seen it with (cell phone) wallpaper, ring tones and games."
Japanese mCommerce accounted for about $1 billion in sales in 2003. The figure exploded to $10 billion in 2006, Wright said, adding that he feels the United States is ready to follow suit.
MPoria powers the mCommerce platform on the three major mobile phone carriers in the U.S. -- Sprint, Verizon and AT&T. They work with more than 40 companies to provide mCommerce stores and interfaces on the phone platform, Wright said. "Companies that do well with e-commerce do well with mCommerce," he said.
Shoppers in the 18- to 30-year old range, commonly known as "Generation Y," are the targets of mCommerce.
"They use their phones for a lot more than voice. More than any other demographic," he said. "Over 90 percent of the Gen Y'ers have credit cards, and they send an average of 17 text messages a day."
The average transaction among mPoria's customers is $125 to $130, Wright said.
Getting your business started in mCommerce is fairly simple. A one-time $100 setup fee and monthly hosting fees ranging from $70 to $150, depending on the number of items in the store catalog, gets you going.
"We need a data feed of the catalog, shipping and handling and tax policies and a logo," Wright said. "We can launch a site in 20 minutes."
A visit to the Shopping Channel on Wright's Verizon phone had us ready to purchase a fleece jacket from moosejaw.com in less than five minutes. Customers can pay with PayPal, or their credit card over secure, encrypted connections. None of the entities involved stored any credit card information, Wright said.
Nearly all mobile phones in Japan today have built-in bar-code readers, Wright said, making it easy for users to scan a bar code in a magazine, which launches the phone's Web browser and delivers the advertiser's mCommerce storefront.
"A 'Click to View' button launches the site, complete with maps and physical store locations. It's amazing how prevalent it is over there," Wright said.
Phones aren't just for texting anymore.
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