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2017: The Year of m-commerce

April 26, 2017.
Trade is one of humankind’s oldest activities. The Latin word for trade, or commerce, is commercium, from cum + merx, meaning “with merchandise”, expressing the very notion of an exchange of goods between people. Trade is at the heart of human history and conquest. In fact, many historians identify trade as the cornerstone of civilization. It is said that the Sumerians invented writing 5,500 years ago specifically to keep a record of their commercial activities. That says it all.

Fast-forward to 2017, to a new turning point for trade as we know it. Indeed, analysts believe that this year, mobile trade, or m-commerce, i.e. purchases made from a telephone or tablet, will tip the scales of e-commerce (electronic trade).

Commerce: e, m and retail

According to a recent study by American researcher eMarketer, this year, retail sales will increase by a slight 3.5%, to US$5 trillion.

Within retail sales, e-commerce alone will account for 9.2% of all sales, or US$462.2 billion, an increase of 16% over 2016. But the most spectacular growth is predicted for mobile commerce, which should leap forward by 35.5%, to US$157.1 billion.

In other words, over one-third, or 34% of all electronic transactions will involve a mobile device! While tablet purchases should continue to settle, smartphone purchases will grab a whopping 65% share of e-transactions.

E-commerce: a groundswell

The eMarketer survey, which unfortunately is not available to the general public, reveals several growing trends that are disrupting commerce. Over 183 million Americans, or 67% of people over 14, will make an on-line purchase in 2017. Of this number, some 150 million will also make a purchase on their mobile device. According to eMarketer, this is the first time that two-thirds of the working population is a “digital purchaser”.

Within the next 5 years, e-commerce should account for 14% of all retail sales, or some US$790 trillion by 2021.

The rise of mobile commerce

According to experts, m-commerce should be the dominant form of e-commerce in the future, thanks to continuous technological improvements that enhance buyer experience.

We already know that daily Internet hours are not evenly distributed. American adults, for example, spend 59% of their on-line time on their phone, and 41% on their computer; however, until recently, only 15% of their on-line dollars were spent via their mobile, and 85% via a computer.

Why this disparity? Several factors inherent to mobile phones hampered the adoption of phone shopping: small screen size, slow connections, perception of weaker security and poor optimisation for smartphones.

But all of this is changing in favour of mobile commerce: manufacturers are coming out with phones with larger screens, the most popular social networks are providing platforms to buy stuff directly through them without leaving their site, and merchants are providing one-click payment options to users who have previously entered their information.

Today’s Sumerians are called Amazon, Alibaba, eBay or even Walmart, and mobile-speak is becoming the new language of retail. Future conquests will look different from past ones, but one thing is for sure: commerce will never be the same again.