Mo Mo Mo

20 11 2011

Billy Idol may have bragged about his midnight hour exploits and his conquest wanting mo, mo, mo. But this year, it looks like Santa is going to be the one singing this tune as shoppers start to embrace yet another shopping paradigm. Analysts predict that mobile shopping may account for up to 16% of all e-commerce sales this holiday season.

It’s almost enough to make Santa phone home.

M-commerce attests to our increasingly mobile lifestyles. Whereas 15 years ago it was mind-boggling to even consider staying at home and shopping in our pajamas, this thought is now passe because we need to be able to shop from anywhere…not just the sofa.

But there is one nagging thing that bothers me: I’d be willing to bet a stocking full of cool gifts that the vast majority of m-commerce sales are cannibalizing e-commerce sales.

How’s that again?

Simple. Whereas e-commerce certainly steals sales away from brick-and-mortar stores, I sincerely doubt that there are many m-commerce shoppers who skipped that vital phase. In other words, if you have yet to one-click your way through Amazon’s rain forest of goodness, I just can’t see you tapping away on your iPhone with reckless shopping abandon.

Fortunately, e-commerce does continue to grow, so all is not lost. It’s just that I see the pot of e-commerce sales being a colander. Sales are pouring in through the top, but leaking out at the bottom.

So does this then mean that we should all avoid m-commerce like a digital plague?

Not in a New York minute. If anything, being m-comm capable is rapidly becoming a necessary defensive posture. If you don’t have mobile-friendly commerce, you risk losing sales to those who do. Just like e-commerce rapidly became the norm nearly a generation ago, m-comm is poised to do likewise.

Now in all fairness, m-comm is a rather broadly used term. It means any sales conducted via a hand held device, such as a smartphone or tablet. And one need not be away from home to make these purchases. Heck, I have spent a fortune on my iPad from Amazon, all from the cushy comfy coziness of my recliner.

So much for e-commerce. That would have required me to get up off my duff and head to my computer area. Oh, the fatigue I am envisioning.

All laziness aside, I have also made plenty of iPad purchases while on travel. Have wifi, will shop: e-books, e-magazines, apps, software, movies, and tangible items for all those things that can’t be reduced to a series of 1s and 0s.

And to a lesser extent, the same goes for my phone.

If anything, the combination of more people (still) migrating toward e-commerce, and of that crowd a small but growing leakage to m-commerce, the result is that BAM stores are finding they have a little less relevance each year. Banks are already discovering this reality, with a small trend emerging of closing branches. And electronics giant has already initiated an effort to reduce store size by up to 10% by either partitioning it off, or subletting.

Of course, it doesn’t (yet) mean that BAM stores are all going to curl up and die. But it does mean that the terms of engagement for all businesses have changed, and that a multi-channel approach is necessary for survival. With the holidays right around the corner, it behooves all retailers to hop on this sleigh ride, or risk missing sales.

I think I hear Santa starting to sing.

Dr “Rebel Yell” Gerlich


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