m-Commerce and the Role of Industry Co-Operation Models

Over the past few years, Booz & Company has hosted a series of very successful mobile payments and mobile commerce events in London. This year we focussed the discussion on the role of industry collaboration in driving this market.

Without a doubt e-commerce, enabled through smartphones, has exploded over the past year. Illustrative of this trend is the fact that global sales through mobile for eBay topped nearly $2bn in 2010 (over 200% growth on 2009) including, apparently, approximately 4 Ferraris each month.

But making m-commerce work in the physical world has been more challenging. The globe is littered with "trials" but few scaled successes (outside of Japan or South Korea). Even in the UK where there are over 12m contactless cards in circulation, the associated transaction volumes are insignificant.

We argue this is largely a supply-side issue. Bridging the electronic and physical worlds requires new ecosystems to be created. At the heart, there needs to be ubiquitous adoption of technology in shops to facilitate easy transactions (payments and/or voucher redemption and/or loyalty scheme exploitation). But to drive adoption, standards and innovations in business models, it will also likely require collaboration across the value chain - mobile operators, banks, transaction processing companies, marketing companies, etc.

“At the end of the day, the customers will get what they want. Look at ATM machines now – you can withdraw money from any terminal, irrespective of which bank you have a relationship with.”