eTail 2010: Mobile Commerce Worth $2.5B Today, Debate Rages Over Apps vs. Mobile Web

At the eTail 2010 social media and mobile commerce summit, it was indicated that the mobile commerce market is worth roughly $2.5B today, with that number set to double each year over the next few years.

Mobile commerce in general was dissected during a special panel where topics ranged from the current state of the industry to growth potential and even emerging best practices.  Some panelists represented brands that already utilize mobile commerce initiatives, with many stating that while the shift to mobile continues, it doesn’t seem to be shifting focus away from traditional eCommerce.  “We did notice incremental growth at Lacoste,” said Maryssa Miller, former director of ecommerce at Lacoste, New York.  “After we launched an mcommerce-enabled app in April, we didn’t see regular Web site sales decrease.”

A primary debate at the summit focused on the future of mobile apps vs. the mobile Web in terms of mobile commerce, although its a debate the entire mobile industry is facing at the moment.  Many on the panel argued the simplicity, safety and ease of development for mobile apps make them a better choice, but others argued the reach and versatility of the mobile Web makes for a better decision.  “The first place to develop is the mobile Web – it should be the conduit for everything else,” said Joy Randals, head of mobile sales integration at Akamai, Cambridge, MA.  “Mobile Web gives you the ability to tie everything from TV to print to in-store all together.”

For me, I’d have to agree with the mobile Web argument, especially when it comes to mobile commerce initiatives.  “It gives you the ability to address everything with the browser, with SMS, with apps, and you can build out from there,” she said.  “As long as you build something that will scale, then you don’t need to reinitiate that investment later.”  Putting emphasis on mobile Web development has always made more sense to me.  Developing and deploying once rather than creating an app and porting to the numerous OS platforms will increasingly become unnecessary, especially as HTML5 becomes more mainstream.