When he was seven months old, my son picked up my iPhone, which he’d seen me use many times since he was born, and started jabbing at the screen. To him the device wasn’t so much a phone, but more something you touched and prodded and, unbeknownst to him, enjoyed.
Early adopters were ridiculed, and many rela estate printing commentators suggested that such a thing would never take off. It would be too expensive, too cumbersome and would never achieve the critical mass of users needed to make it practical.
Well, as we know now, that wasn’t the case. Mobile phones are everywhere, but as my young son – who is now 18 months old and can actually use, albeit rudimentarily, an iPhone – confirms, these devices are proving to be more than just phones. They have morphed in a very short period of time into computers in our pockets.
The modern handset is connected to the Internet, has processing power that outstrips by some margin that found in the Apollo spacecrafts that got humankind to the moon, has a full color screen, can handle multimedia, and is connected to everyone else with a phone. This has become a modern marvel and, to my mind, is one of the defining inventions of humankind.
But hyperbole aside, the mobile phone of today is a powerful beast – with a profile and ubiquity dominant enough to influence a small boy before he could walk or talk – and this makes it commercially interesting to us all.
But what is mobile commerce and how can it benefit you? Well, to most people m-commerce is simply an extension of online shopping – connecting these devices that people hold so dear and have with them all the time to the web and hence to online shops.
Online shopping took many years to get entrenched in the public mindset, but now it is a standard way of shopping. The mobile phone clearly offers an even more convenient way to do it than a computer, allowing people sitting in front of the TV to shop, without having to get up and turn on a PC or pick up a laptop.
This view of mobile commerce is indeed a vital part of the multibillion dollar m-commerce marketplace. But there is so much more to what mobile in commerce can deliver that, well.
M-commerce, of which mobile retailing is a subset, is everything from selling content and goods, to delivering vouchers and coupons, to engaging with and entertaining potential shoppers. The phone becomes a tool to drive those shoppers into brick-and-mortar stores; a channel to turn TV, print, billboard and online advertising into sales; a payment device; a way of letting consumers share and recommend retailers; and even a tool that allows them to call you if they really need to.