Posted on January 11, 2011 - by David Etheredge
Mobile Ad Network company, Millenial Media has dubbed 2011 “The Year of the Mobile Consumer” in their report “Predictions for the Top 11 i n’11″. Although we’d love to see mobile commerce explode in 2011, it seems more likely that Mobile Commerce will need another 12 to 18 months to really take off in the mass market.
Wikipedia reports there were about 285 million mobile phone users in the U.S. as of December 2009, while a recent report from TechSpot puts the number of smart phone users at a shade above 61 million with quarterly growth running around 10%. That means we still haven’t quite reached the mark of 25% of mobile phones users having smart phones.
In addition, anyone who’s used their mobile phone to attempt to purchase a product through the mobile web or a native application can attest to the fact that mobile commerce is pretty much a miserable experience unless you’re using a newer touch screen enabled smart phone. Touch screens are gobbling up market share from all other types of mobile phones at a frightening pace, but most of this growth is fueled by younger consumers as the 40+ crowd stubbornly clings to outmoded flip phones and web & application unfriendly Blackberry and Palm devices.
This means the actual market of consumers who own touch screen devices which are suited for mobile commerce might be a small as 50 million users and even with projected explosive growth in 2011, the penetration of touchscreen might not break the 100 million user mark until the tail end of the year. Yes there will be a lot of potential consumers on mobile commerce capable phones by years end, but does that mean Millennial is right in their prediction?
We’re not convinced. In a perfect world, businesses would read the writing on the wall and start deploying mobile commerce optimized websites and applications now in anticipation of the 100 million or so consumers who will be ready to buy things through their touch screens by year’s end. But in reality, there will likely be a majority of companies who take a “wait and see” attitude and fail to deploy a mobile optimized website until after the mobile commerce marketplace has already taken off.
The customers and device penetration required to make 2011 “The Year of the Mobile Consumer” may be there by year’s end, but will the products and services be there? Probably not.
There will be some early adopters who get out in front of the mobile commerce boom and reap the rewards of differentiating themselves from their competitors in 2011. But right now, a very small percentage of companies have deployed mobile optimized websites and even among Fortune 1000 companies, there are a tiny number of sites that take full advantage of touch screen smart phone features such as GPS and high resolution graphics.
It’s hard to imagine the retail side of the mobile commerce equation catching up to consumer demand in less than 12 months given where the industry stands right now. So we’ll go out on a limb and say Millenial is off by a year and that 2012 will be the breakout year for mobile commerce, assuming that the Mayans end of the world predictions don’t bring a premature end to the holiday shopping season next year.