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eBay calls on UK government to support m-commerce as one of the key planks to economic recovery

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eBay is lobbying the UK government to take mobile more seriously as an industry that can help haul the UK out of economic gloom. Delivering a Mobile Manifesto to the government today, the online auction house – and leading mobile retailer – is calling for the government to help the industry and policy makers grow the already downturn bucking mobile industry.

The UK’s digital communications industry – including mobile operations from retailers, network providers and developers – is worth more than £50 billion to the UK economy, according to a recent report prepared for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and directly employs 531,000 UK workers.

eBay’s Mobile Manifesto includes seven critical areas of focus that will help grow the mobile industry and boost the UK’s wider economic recovery through the support of this growing industry.

These cover improving download and network speeds, making better network connection, speeding up the roll out of next generation 4G networks, improving network coverage, cutting data roaming charges and doing more to help retailers and brand optimize their mobile sites and develop apps.

The development of the Mobile Manifesto follows recent research conducted for eBay by retail experts Verdict that shows mobile shopping could deliver a £4.5 billion boost to Britain’s economy by 2016, and a further £13 billion by 2021.

But the study also reveals that consumers are being held back from spending, owing to frustrations with the speed at which they can complete everyday functions like browsing and shopping on their smartphones. Half of the 2000 consumers questioned (45%) are in fact dissatisfied with the speed at which they can download data on their mobile phone.

With the auction for 4G spectrum suffering delays, eBay is calling for Ofcom to proceed as quickly as possible to enable the rollout of next generation broadband in 2013. According to Verdict research, Ofcom should prioritise improvements to mobile internet coverage on transport routes such as railways and roads as over a third of consumers (36%) already shop on their mobiles whilst travelling – a number which could be boosted to benefit retailers with faster mobile internet and better coverage.

David Dyson, Chief Executive Officer, mobile operator Three UK, says: “Three’s customers make the most of their smartphones, but a fear of high data roaming charges force them to limit their internet use the moment they leave the UK. High wholesale charges mean high roaming prices. We stand with eBay in calling for the European Commission to cap wholesale data charges at 3c or less and lead the world in making the mobile internet accessible wherever consumers want to use it.”

In the development of the Mobile Manifesto, eBay brought together retailers, network operators, industry bodies and consumer groups to discuss the future of mobile, and it is clear that retailers need to be ready to harness the potential of the mobile economy.

Three quarters of mobile users (73%) would spend more through their mobiles if retailers had optimised websites. Furthermore, 68% of consumers still have concerns about giving personal details over a mobile connection – something they think mobile network providers are responsible for addressing (68%), in addition to banks and payment providers (63%) and retailers themselves (57%).

Rosie Srao, Mobile Business Development Manager at Marks and Spencer, explains: “Our customers are increasingly using their mobiles to make shopping more convenient and easy while they are on the go and it’s up to us to make sure that we make the customer journey as simple, fast and engaging as possible.”

The Mobile Manifesto also includes recommendations on how to reduce prohibitive data roaming charges. Over half of respondents (53%) have used their mobile internet to browse and find a store location whilst abroad, 49% have compared product prices and a third (36%) have used mobile internet to buy a product. However, retailers are missing out as two thirds of respondents (63%) say they are put off using the internet more overseas because of the cost of downloading data.[ii]

Miriam Lahage, Vice President of Global Fashion at eBay, said: “The mobile economy is proving resilient as people increasingly see owning and using a mobile phone as an essential expense, despite cutting back in other areas.

“As smartphone and tablet ownership increases there will be even greater potential rewards for companies investing in mobile, and this is particularly true for retailers. At eBay in the UK we now see around 10% of sales by value transacted on mobile devices, but we need the right infrastructure in the UK to match this demand,” she says.

“For retailers, it’s about putting mobile at the heart of your strategy and creating a site that is optimised for every device,” Lahage concludes.

However, Anton Gething, Co-founder & Product Director at nToklo strikes a note of caution: “I agree with the driving principles behind the manifesto eBay has put forward today. The objectives the manifesto sets out for the future of mobile retail are what the industry needs, including making shopping more viable and accessible on mobile. However, although one of the manifesto points is ‘optimising for mobile’ it seems more of a self supporting list for virtual online brands like eBay and does not emphasize enough the need to support the struggling brick and mortar retailers on the high streets and the opportunities mobile can offer to support this aspect of the retail economy.”

Instead, Gething believes that: “In addition to the longer systemic visions put forward in the manifesto, government should turn an immediate focus to promote and support the high street economy, which both employs and offers direct touchpoints to introduce new mobile strategies to consumers. Whether through improved access to Wi-Fi or educating consumers on how mobile devices and platforms can be used for mobile commerce, the High Street still offers a lucrative opportunity for retailers.”

To join the debate on Twitter use #mobmanifesto

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