Mobile Commerce: Definition, Advantages & Disadvantages
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Chances are, you’re one of the more than 6 billion people on the planet that owns a smartphone. You may even be reading this on a mobile device! As such, it’s safe to assume you already know how much of an impact that device has on your everyday life. These days, most of us – especially Millennials and Gen Z – carry our phones with us everywhere we go. They’re the first thing we check in the morning, and the last thing we see at night. Throughout those waking hours, we use mobile devices for every conceivable task, from sending messages, to paying bills, and checking the weather. Recently, with advancement in mobile app development, this has also begun to include shopping. That’s where mobile commerce comes into play.

What is Mobile Commerce?

Mobile commerce, often called m-commerce, refers to any financial transaction that is completed through a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet. In essence, this is the next logical step in ecommerce. This is because it allows users to buy and sell goods and/or services from virtually anywhere, as long as they have a mobile device and an internet connection.

That said, m-commerce is more than simply an evolution of ecommerce. In fact, it’s also helped many industries grow, while also spawning new businesses and services, including things like:

  • Mobile money transfers;
  • Mobile banking;
  • In-app purchases and contactless payment;
  • Electronic tickets and boarding passes;
  • Purchase and delivery of digital content;
  • Location-based services;
  • Mobile coupons, loyalty cards, and marketing.

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Mobile Commerce vs eCommerce

While ecommerce and m-commerce are very similar, there are a few key differences. Let’s peel back these layers a bit to get a better understanding.

By definition, ecommerce refers to basically all commercial transactions that take place via the internet. M-commerce, on the other hand, refers specifically to those digital transactions that take place on smartphones. So, if you’re browsing a shoe website on a desktop computer and make a purchase, that’s ecommerce. If you browse and purchase from that same website on a smartphone, that’s m-commerce.

In a nutshell, m-commerce basically allows consumers to access online shopping platforms, browse, and buy, all as seamlessly and conveniently as possible through a mobile device.

Types of m-Commerce

Mobile commerce covers a lot of different kinds of transactions, however they can all be sorted into three categories.

Mobile Shopping

The mobile shopping category is where m-commerce and ecommerce are the most similar. Mobile shopping is now available through mobile optimized websites, apps dedicated to shopping, and even social media platforms like Instagram.

Mobile Banking

Again, mobile and online banking are very similar. However, when it comes to banking through a mobile device, some transaction types can be limited – or even restricted. Furthermore, most mobile banking is done through a dedicated app.

Mobile Payments

M-Commerce mobile payments refer to all payments made through a mobile device. This includes even things like using an app to send your half of the restaurant bill, or Google or Apple Pay to make purchases while shopping.

Advantages of m-Commerce

Once, not long ago, developing a mobile app and switching to a mobile-friendly platform was prohibitively expensive unless you were a big company. However, as the cost of mobile app development has decreased, companies of all sizes have been able to reap the rewards.

Let’s take a look at some of the most important benefits any sized business can enjoy if they switch to an m-commerce system

Improved User Experience

Ecommerce represented a giant step forward in how we shop. Allowing consumers to browse and buy from their computer, instead of stepping into a physical store, gave them access to a much wider range of products. It also gave consumers the ability to compare prices at a glance.

Now, mobile commerce has given us even more freedom; consumers can do everything they could on a computer with the smartphone they carry everywhere. What’s more, thanks to the nature of m-commerce, it offers specific user experience capabilities ecommerce simply can’t:

  • Mobility: The portability of laptops cannot be disputed. However, people don’t carry laptops around with them everywhere they go. And even if they did, most need WiFi or an ethernet cable to connect to the internet. On the other hand, no one leaves the house without their smartphone, and as long as there is a signal, there is internet access.
  • Reachability: Apps that take advantage of m-commerce can send users push notifications. This means retailers can reach a wider range of consumers who have already proven they are interested in the products. Additionally, they can reach these customers any time, with targeted offers.
  • Location Tracking: With the aid of WiFi and GPS technology, online retailers and m-commerce apps can locate users and send them personalized and location-specific content and offers.

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Incredible Growth Capacity

Mobile commerce has already been around long enough to have amassed a large user base, but there is no sign of slowing growth.

In 2021, retail m-commerce sales reached $359.32 billion. This was a leap of 15.2% over 2020. By 2025, retail m-commerce is expected to more than double 2021’s numbers, hitting $728.28 billion, and making up nearly 45% of all retail ecommerce sales in the US alone.


The goal for most retailers is to achieve a truly omnichannel experience. This means they can sell their products to consumers both in a brick and mortar store, and online through a variety of platforms; an ecommerce website, a mobile commerce app, Amazon, Instagram, etc. This helps create a seamless, more enjoyable user experience, and provides a united message across all platforms.

Additionally, a true omnichannel experience is all about speaking to your customers in their language, wherever they are – and making it as easy as possible for them to buy from you. That makes mobile devices perfect for omnichannel commerce.

Customer Data

One area where mobile commerce is especially valuable to businesses is data. M-commerce has the ability to gather massive amounts of consumer data, allowing you to gain better insights regarding your customers’ journey.

With in-store retail, your customer arrives, browses, makes a purchase, and leaves. Practically no information can be gathered from this interaction for analysis.

On the other hand, with mobile commerce, your business connects with your customers from the moment they visit your digital store – be it an app or website. Data regarding the products they consider, what they buy, and when they buy can be gathered. All this gives you a better picture of who your consumers are, and what they are interested in.

Disadvantages of m-Commerce

As with any emerging technology, there are still some downsides to mobile commerce. However, with a little research and effort, even then disadvantages can be overcome.

Extremely Competitive Environment

As mobile commerce has caught on, a great many businesses have begun investing in it. That means, if you start implementing m-commerce today, you’ll have thousands of competitors on day one. To gain a competitive edge, you’ll need a clearly defined market or niche market.

Continuous Optimization

One of the most obvious differences between desktop and mobile is the size of the display. With desktop computers, you get a nice, big screen, and content can spread out. However, on a mobile device, the view must be compressed to fit everything. That said, when done with skill, a mobile display can be easy to navigate and offer a positive user experience. However, if done poorly, the process becomes frustrating, which causes users to leave – and not come back. Furthermore, it’s not enough to simply make your desktop website accessible on mobile devices; mobile users have come to expect a separate, unique experience.

Creating that separate experience can be challenging, as tablets and smartphones are used differently. Smartphone users tend to use apps rather than searching for a website in a browser. Generally, tablet users do the opposite, spending more time in browsers. Additionally, mobile commerce through smartphones is expected to reach $553.28 billion by 2024 and tablet m-commerce is expected to make $64.06 billion in 2022.

In order to get in on this massive market, you’ll need to continuously optimize your m-commerce platforms for multiple devices, display sizes, and user behaviors to ensure the best possible user experience.

Price Comparisons

One of the side-effects of the growth of the mobile experience is that users can now compare prices across multiple stores in an instant. With just a few taps of a finger, customers can find out how much similar products or services cost at your store, and five others. Often, users will search for the least expensive product for the highest value.

The best way to contend with this issue is to know where you match up against your competitors. Watch out for when the competition adjusts their prices, in either direction, and be ready to react.

Customer Security

In today’s increasingly digital world, privacy and security is a growing concern. Everyone wants and expects their data to be safe, and remain in the proper hands, but the fear it won’t be is pervasive. Therefore many customers don’t completely trust that their data is safe when shopping online.

You can overcome this fear by letting your customers know what security measures you have put in place. Add the logos of the security system you utilize to reassure them that their data will remain safe. Be as transparent as possible with how you are complying with all regulations governing how you collect and share your users’ information.

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There’s no denying that mobile commerce is on the rise. Every day, more consumers learn that m-commerce is the most convenient and efficient way to shop online. That means that brands that keep up with emerging mobile commerce trends will be positioned to offer the best user experience possible. Carrying through on a well thought out and properly structured mobile commerce strategy, which may include an m-commerce app or website, can drastically improve your conversions and ROI.

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