I just read a good summary of what’s happening with m-commerce from GigaOM. He reports that in the US, m-commerce transactions have increased between 3 and 5 times year on year for this period running up to Christmas. Note when people quote percentages and multiples its because the absolute numbers can still be quite low, but I think this is still very significant for a number of reasons.
Traditionally mobile transactions have been for mobile content such as Apps and Music, but the implication is that this is changing. With the advent of mobile checkins/location monitoring apps, the rise of the recommendation engine is becoming significant. People are being persuaded to use their mobile to aid the decision making or even suggest physical goods purchases. It’s still really early days. This morning I watched Robert Scoble interview Dennis Crowley at LeWeb. Dennis is now putting big emphasis away from checking in for mayorships and pushing the concept of their Explorer recommendation engine – he sees this as the future of Foursquare; and so do I. In fact I see it as the future of lots of companies. M-commerce is in transition, whilst apps and music purchases may still dominate the transactions today, there is some evidence something new and very different is about to happen; people are beginning to make physical goods purchases from their mobile. I can envisage me making most of by physical goods purchase from my phones with the help of tools such as recommendation engines.
So who commercially is going to benefit from this new area. Well, the usual suspects of Google, Twitter and Facebook are there along with the new kids on the block of Foursquare coming up quickly. But I began thinking where are the operators?
The operators have had all the building blocks to enable such services for years. They have identity, location and charge to bill capability. So what are they doing? Well I’ll leave that an open question but here’s a list of what they should be doing…
1) enabling identity everywhere (so they can recognise their users on Wifi as well as when they’re on their network) (NB this is technically possible).
2) the big operators should be working together to enable cross-operator services which work no matter which operators they are on.
3) they should be enabling commercial 3rd parties to create services which use their information, such as identity, location, charge to bill etc.
They should be investing in these heavily because there is still time to effectively compete with Google and Facebook but that window of opportunity will disappear unless they do it now.