US m-commerce sales are on a steep upward trajectory, thanks in part to ever-increasing adoption of smartphones and the mobile internet among the US mobile population.
eMarketer estimates mobile commerce sales will reach $6.7 billion this year—a tiny fraction of overall retail sales, to be sure, but a 91.4% increase over 2010. Next year, sales will rise another 73.1%, to $11.6 billion.
“There’s no question that mobile commerce is growing at a fast clip,” said eMarketer principal analyst Jeffrey Grau, author of a forthcoming report on mobile buying. “And mobile acts as an engine of overall ecommerce growth, by converting potential brick-and-mortar sales to digital sales as consumers use their smartphones while shopping in-store.”
eMarketer’s estimates of mobile sales are based on a meta-analysis of data from research firms as well as overall trends in mobile ownership and usage. M-commerce sales include sales of physical goods as well as travel and event tickets purchased via mobile, but exclude digital downloads and usage of mobile phones as a point-of-sale payment mechanism.
eMarketer forecasts 37.5 million US consumers ages 14 and up will make at least one purchase on their mobile phone next year, up from 26.8 million this year. The vast majority of that group will be smartphone owners, at 97% in 2012. Overall, 72.8 million mobile users will research or browse items on their phone next year, but not necessarily make a purchase.
Auction sites like eBay and flash sales sites like HauteLook benefit significantly from rising mobile commerce, since the immediacy of their offers attracts shoppers to the mobile channel to grab a limited-time deal while on the go.
At the same time, brick-and-mortar retailers run an ever-greater risk of becoming showrooms for Amazon.com and other online retailers—though the shift to mobile shopping can benefit them as well.
“If a retailer has robust mobile offerings, it can steer in-store shoppers to look online for more information or find out-of-stock sizes and items on its own mobile site or app,” noted Grau, “retaining the sale via a different channel.”
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