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Emperor’s new clothes

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200 million smartphones were sold worldwide in the first quarter of this year, according to Juniper Research. Meanwhile, it also comes as no surprise that teens in the UK are among the fastest growing section of society using smartphones. We are becoming a world of smartphones. And it is clear that the smartphone generation has to be sated by retailers.

But if you are not a massive multinational with very deep pockets, is mobile commerce really for you? While the stats above – and those in our top few stories this week – show that the world is going mobile, e-commerce software vendor SellerDeck has been brave enough to stick its head above the parapet and call for sense. It’s a real Emperor’s New Clothes moment.

According to the Sussex based vendor who’s target audience is small businesses, mobile is for many companies a subsidiary sales channel.

Of course, here in the mobile retail bunker our first reaction was to roll out the iPhone controlled drones and launch a silencing strike on these naysayers. But they have a a survey to back up their wild claims.

“Undertaking consumer research is an important part of our development process, but it rarely generates any big surprises,” says SellerDeck’s marketing director, Phil Rothwell. “However, in this survey two things particularly stood out. Firstly, 43% of consumers make purchases from their mobile devices, but only a few times a year and the other 57% ‘Never or Very Rarely’ use m-commerce. And secondly, around 35% of those that do buy on the move have concerns about security.”

This has made me wonder two things: firstly, is the hype around mobile really just hype and, at best, the technology is only something that large retailers can put to use right now? And secondly, do all the other researchers who ask “how often do you buy from mobile?” ever then ask “how often to you really do this?”.

Of course surveys are not the ideal way to garner what the man and woman (and, increasingly, child) in the street actually do, but I would also argue that when it comes to small businesses, of course mobile looks a daunting and costly optional extra.

But that belies the fact that mobile can perhaps do more for small businesses than it can for their supersized counterparts. Big retailers need mobile to keep up with the competition and to service customers in the way they want.

Customers are increasingly getting more mobile centric in all their habits, and shopping in small and independent stores is no exception. It is daunting trying to figure out how to make it happen on a tight budget, there are ways.

And the rewards are huge. Potentially. Mobile extends any brand’s reach, which in theory should increase sales – if nothing else by first mover advantage to start with. But as comsumers do become ever more mobile centric, no small business can afford to not look at mobile. What is needed is a simple, cost effective development platform for SMEs and small retailers to actually do this. Ultimately there is a lot of money in it for someone.

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