Get ready for the social e-commerce wave

Within four years, more than 50 percent of e-commerce sales could be initiated via mobile devices and social networks.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

As nuts as North American consumers are about their mobile phones, their addiction pales when you consider how far advanced mobile phone commerce has progressed outside the United States. The size of the online shopping market in Japan, for example, exceeded $10 billion in 2009, according to ABI Research. But that is about to change, if you believe some new e-commerce data from market research firm Gartner.

The forecast company believes that by 2015, companies will rely on mobile applications and social networks for approximately 50 percent of their Web sales. This will translate into the rise of context-aware, shopping applications that can be accessed via a browser or through a device-specific application, according to data discussed by Gartner analysts during its Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in October.

Noted Gene Alvarez, Gartner research vice president:

"E-commerce organizations will need to scale up their operations to handle the increased visitation loads resulting from customers not having to wait until they are in front of a PC to obtain answers to questions or place orders. In time, e-commerce vendors will begin to offer context-aware mobile-shopping solutions as part of their overall Web sales offerings."

This means several things for businesses that have any sort of e-commerce presence currently fronted by a Web site:

  • They will need to consider the design of their sites so that they (at the very least) can accommodate navigation via a mobile browser, as opposed to one on a PC or notebook computer
  • They will need to be context-aware. That is, not only will the site need to be smart enough to understand whether or not a potential customer is visiting from a mobile device, it will need to layer in location information so that it can figure out what promotions (and taxes) are appropriate.
  • Businesses will need to brush up on global culture. Gartner figures that in just two years (by 2013), 80 percent of those who sell products online in North America and Europe will need to consider how to expand operations into Brazil, Russian, India, Africa, Japan or China. That push will come with all the usual localization and regulatory challenges.
  • As people spend more online time "living" in Facebook, businesses will need to get more savvy about integrating e-commerce opportunities into the places where they are likely to "meet" their customers or potential customers.

Here is some more video commentary from Gartner's Alvarez:

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