US mobile commerce soars

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Consumers are increasingly using mobile devices to shop for holiday gifts, according to ThreatMetrix, which found that the number of mobile transactions has risen 591% compared with last year’s holiday shopping season.

On Cyber Monday alone, the number of mobile transactions rose nearly 11% over Black Friday, ThreatMetrix found. ThreatMetrix says that mobile transactions were particularly popular among consumers on Cyber Monday because they could be made after the workday ended and during the commute home.

ThreatMetrix also found that 60% of mobile transactions were made on Android devices on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, while the iPhone accounted for 32% of mobile transactions on Black Friday and 30% of transactions on Cyber Monday. The remaining transactions were made by users of Palm, Windows, and BlackBerry smartphones.

Finally, ThreatMetrix found that mobile transactions made up 3% of all e-commerce transactions this year, up from 2% in 2010.

US m-commerce sales have been steadily climbing, as more and more users adopt smartphones and use the mobile internet. M-commerce sales will total $6.7 billion in 2011, a 91.4% gain over last year, according to eMarketer estimates.

“There’s no question that mobile commerce is growing at a fast clip,” says eMarketer analyst Jeffrey Grau. Some 37.5 million US consumers ages 14 and older will make at least one purchase on their mobile phone in 2012, versus 26.8 million in 2011, according to eMarketer.

Smartphone owners will account for 97% of that segment next year. Nearly 73 million mobile users overall will research or browse, but not necessarily buy, items on their phone in 2012. “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, retaining the sale via a different channel,” Grau notes.

Small businesses increasingly are using Square Readers to process credit card payments on smartphones. Square Readers enabled merchants to process sales for $2 billion worth of goods and services in 2011, with purchases averaging $75.

Square has gained more than 800,000 customers since its device and application became available in 2010. Square Readers can be obtained for free through the firm’s web site or via a rebate from retail stores such as Apple, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, and RadioShack. But Square faces competition from mobile payment transactions, which are estimated to double this year to $86.1 billion, up from $48.9 billion in 2010, according to Gartner.

“While Square is new, it’s just facilitating a 50-year-old payment mechanism – mag-stripe cards,” says Yankee Group analyst Nick Holland. Meanwhile, companies such as Google, PayPal, and Intuit are pursuing the mobile payments arena.

PayPal now has 103 million active users, and in the next 12 to 24 months it plans to unveil technologies to enable consumers to “swipe, enter, or tap” mobile devices when they pay. Nevertheless, Holland says Square has found a solid market niche with small business users. “Square is hitting its stride,” he says. “When they first started, I thought: ‘Not a chance.’ But it has found many niche markets, it’s free, and it improves cash flow for small businesses, which many live and die on.”