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Adoption of m-commerce across Europe is as low as 2%, but growth will come, study shows

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Adoption of mobile commerce in Europe remains low, with a mere 2% of adults across the continent reporting purchasing products from their mobiles and only 5% interested in doing so, according to new research from Forrester Research based on a survey of more than 14,000 European online adults.

Only 16% of online buyers have used their mobile phone for a shopping-related activity such as researching products, checking on the status of an order, or locating a nearby store to buy a specific product, says Forrester.

Currently, browsing for products and services is the most popular commerce-related activity on a mobile, but only 7% of online buyers do this. Online buyers also tend to use their mobile phone to check on the status of an order or locate a nearby store. Buying products from a mobile phone hasn’t taken off, as a mere 2% of European online buyers purchase products from their mobile phone and only 5% are actually interested in doing so.

Unsurprisingly, mobile-savvy users are more likely to engage in mobile commerce. For example, 23% of European iPhone users research products on their mobile phone at least monthly. Similarly, among mobile daily Internet users, one-third have already researched products/services using the mobile Internet, 20% have located a nearby store, and 18% have compared prices on a mobile device while in a shop. Even if this group is still niche, this gives a good indication of the potential of mobile commerce.

Italian and Swedish online buyers have warmed up the most to mobile commerce, followed by the UK. Those in France and Germany show the least interest – as backed up by eBay’s findings that UK consumers buy four times as much online than the French.

The study also finds that there is a huge disparity between the level of mobile technology different retailers are currently using in mobile. In addition to the SMS technology that many retailers have introduced or are considering introducing, some European retailers — like Tesco, Zara, and Albert Heijn — provide fully established mobile Web site options. Other European retailers — like La Redoute , Fnac, or Ocado — have mobile applications aimed at capturing orders via a mobile phone.

Forrester finds that European retailers have adopted mobile commerce strategy by three main routes: developing smartphone apps, optimizing their website for mobile traffic and using mobile as an in store tool.

According to the study, European retailers, travel operators, and price comparison sites are particularly keen on apps, as these allow customers to do online shopping and travel research including searches for products, prices, store locations, and sales information anywhere they go.5 Ocado was the first UK retailer to launch an iPhone app: Ocado on the Go users can shop for everything from food and drink to books and toys . Ocado’s iPhone app has proved to be rather successful, with 4.4% of all Ocado orders in February 2010 being taken through the iPhone edition of its system.6 Other applications offer checks on instore item availability as well as comparisons of online and local pricing. For example, fashion retailers Oasis and Net-A-Porter launched iPhone applications that enable customers to shop and complete transactions via their mobile devices.

With the Internet proving to be a strong growth channel for most retailers, many are redesigning Web sites in order to maximize the revenue potential of their online presence via mobile Web access. For example, UK grocer Marks & Spencer recently launched a version of its Web site designed specifically for mobile devices where mobile users can access the Web site through the original Marks & Spencer address ( without having to download any software or applications. Carrefour also launched where users can see 360-degree product views, find instore promotions, check inventory, and order products.

Mobile service can also be used without performing any transaction — like as a price comparison or user review tool when the user is at the point of sale (POS). For example, Sephora brings the online content and experience into the store as well as the voice of the customer by urging customers to read reviews on their phones in-store by going to (see Figure 5). This enables customers to access credible word of mouth on products and services from any location. Oasis launched a peer-to-peer SMS giftvoucher service allowing customers to purchase gift vouchers through its Web site to be sent to the mobile phones of friends and family and redeemed in-store. This technical development embraces the emerging mobile market and creates a road map for the future integration of online and in-store commerce. French price comparison site launched a mobile site in order to allow users to access its comparison features on a mobile in-store.

Despite the low penetration rate, Forrester analyst Thomas Husson argues that mobile presents a growing market opportunity. “Smartphone adoption in Europe is growing fast, which makes traffic to Web sites through mobile devices easier. European consumers are starting to show interest in mobile commerce activities, and many retailers across Europe— like La Redoute, Fnac, eBay,, Tesco, and Carrefour — are starting to improve their mobile Web sites and creating mobile applications for the iPhone.”

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