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Consumers open to mobile commerce: Harris study

August 25, 2009

harris1Consumers are willing to use their handsets to buy pizza, fast food and high-end items such as hotels and tickets for travel, but when it comes to billing, Americans tend to trust their credit card company more than their wireless carrier.

Those are among the findings in a recent survey of 2,029 adults ages 18 and older commissioned by Billing Revolution and conducted by Harris Interactive, which measured consumer mobile payments and purchasing preferences.

“Merchants—retailers, digital goods, fast food, movie tickets and record labels—need to make their products available to consumers via the mobile Web,” said Michael Dulong, senior vice president of business development for Billing Revolution, Seattle, WA. “The digital goods providers have these mechanisms in place today and they are already reaping the rewards.

“Operator billing, which includes WAP billing, and premium SMS-based billing are still somewhat prevalent, but neither economic model is sustainable,” he said. “Credit-card-based billing is the only viable billing method that is sustainable.

“Anecdotally speaking, consumers have likely found mistakes on their utility bill, while mistakes on credit card bills are much rarer.”

Founded in 2008, Billing Revolution specializes in alternative payment methods and technologies and expects to process more than $100 million in mobile payment transactions during 2009.

This survey was conducted online within the United States from April 29 to May 1, among 2,029 adults ages 18 and older, of whom 1,883 own mobile phones.

According to the study, the mobile commerce market is expected to exceed $13 billion globally by 2013.

Ninety-three percent of U.S. adults own a mobile phone and nearly half of these adults—45 percent—think it is at least somewhat safe to make a purchase using it, with 26 percent saying they think it is fairly or very safe to do so.

Assuming it was safe to make purchases through mobile phones, nearly half of mobile phone owners—46 percent—would be willing to d so.

Of those who would be willing to make purchases through their mobile phone, 75 percent would be willing to buy entertainment items, such as movie/event tickets (58 percent), music (41 percent), mobile video or television content (24 percent) and games (34 percent).

Many—68 percent—would also buy food or drink items such as pizza (59 percent), fast food (42 percent) and coffee (25 percent).

More than half—55 percent—would be willing to book hotel rooms (43 percent) and tickets for travel (40 percent) via mobile.

The study found that men who own a mobile phone are more likely than their female counterparts to think it is safe to make purchases through their mobile phones.

Half of men think it is at least somewhat safe versus 39 percent of women.

Younger mobile-phone-owning adults are also more likely than older counterparts to think it is at least somewhat safe to make purchases, with 59 percent of those ages 18-34 versus 34 percent of those ages 55-plus.

Those who own a mobile phone and have a college degree or higher are more likely than those who own a mobile phone and have a high school degree or less to think it is at least somewhat safe, with 50 percent versus 38 percent respectively.

Adults who receive bills from both mobile phone and credit cards companies and make $75,000 per year or more are more likely to trust credit card companies over their wireless provider for billing them for payment.

“Consumers are ready to engage in credit card purchases from a mobile phone and consumers are better educated as to the security than previously thought, so build it and they will come,” Mr. Dulong said.

“If the merchants extend the shopping experience to mobile, consumers will come in droves, especially if they offer a savings, and save them a trip to the store,” he said.

The players with the most stakes in the game can provide mobile-exclusive offers and incentives to consumers to assuage concerns, according to Billing Revolution.

“Offer the consumer a savings as well as avoiding a trip to the mall and consumers will bite,” Mr. Dulong said. “Major online retailers got us all comfortable with ecommerce by providing us with an incentive. ‘Exclusive mobile offer!’

“Our technology allows for a secure, PCI compliant, credit card transaction on a mobile phone,” he said. “Digital goods is already here, physical goods is partially here.

“Mobile commerce will go the way of ecommerce and in a much shorter lifecycle—three years as opposed to the ten years it took ecommerce to mature.”

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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