Shopping by Phone Takes on New Meaning
By George Anderson
The year 2006 will mark the year that consumers began ordering items from retailers by cell phone, according to industry experts.
As an article in The New York Times points out, consumers are already spending billions of dollars downloading ring tones, games and wallpaper for their phones and many see shopping as the next logical step.
Phones are seen as an extension of the owner’s personality today and not simply a device to make calls.
Roger Entner, an analyst with Ovum, a technology consulting firm in London, said, “The more different pieces we add to these Swiss Army phones, the easier it is to get user acceptance for the next application. And especially around next Christmas, the convenience of shopping on a computer or a cellphone will beat the mall hands down.”
Amazon.com and eBay are two merchants that are preparing the way for consumers to let their fingers do the shopping on the small screens of cell phones.
eBay is introducing a new mobile phone shopping service this month to users of Verizon’s wireless service. For a $4 monthly subscription fee, users can browse eBay, make bids and receive updates on an auction’s progress.
The online auctioneer offers a free, stripped down version of the service to users of Cingular and Sprint.
“These kinds of services are still pretty new in the U.S.,” said Chris Donlay, a spokesperson for eBay, “so I think it’ll take a while to get some critical mass, but people are using our service, and they seem to like it.”
Patrick Byrne, chief executive officer of Overstock.com, believes that in the future consumers will begin to use cell phones to buy an increasing percentage of goods.
Mr. Byrne invested personal funds and lent engineers from his company to help another, mRocket, develop the technology to run his company’s Mobile O service.
“We do see the number of orders on Mobile O gradually picking up, but it’s still a tiny percentage of our business,” he said. “My hunch is that this is going to start really happening more in ’07.”
Moderator’s Comment: How will cell phones and the convergence of technologies in this delivery device affect retailing
in the future? –
George Anderson – Moderator