What Is M-Commerce?

The process of doing electronic commerce via a mobile device is known as m-commerce. Many m-commerce applications are simple, direct translations of Web e-commerce applications to the mobile environment. However, the type of shopping a user is likely to do on a mobile phone is very different from the shopping he or she might do on the Web. It is unlikely that a mobile user is going to browse large catalogs and shop in a mall-style environment. Because of the small-form factor, wireless push advertising is for the most part overly intrusive, and users are unlikely to accept the amount of advertising they receive today on the Web. Successful m-commerce will require applications that are specifically focused on the requirements of mobility and leverage additional information, such as the user's location, to make highly efficient and compelling user services.

In general, m-commerce applications should focus on the fact that a user is likely to be mobile and short on time. Applications that focus on event-specific services are likely to be well utilized. For example, an application might focus on Mother's Day, with integrated and highly focused service offerings from a flower provider, a gift company, a restaurant finder, an e-card provider, and perhaps even movie and concert listings. The service provided to users is a one-stop shop to make necessary arrangements if they have forgotten an event. Event-specific services need to utilize only the most basic location information, such as a region or metropolitan area.

A more sophisticated use of location information in m-commerce would to enable mobility management and real-time ticket-based applications. The concept behind mobility management is to provide an end-to-end environment to help users make multimodal travel arrangements and provide assistance at every step in their journey. This requires the ability to route on foot, by car, and via trains, ferries, planes, and buses. It also leverages the fact that the application knows where the user is and can always provide relevant information. For example, if a user is at the hotel he or she reserved through a mobility management application, the user's mobile device can direct him or her to a customized set of services that the hotel provides. If the user is at the train station on a particular segment of a journey, he or she can be presented with services available at the train station. A service like this would build a strong relationship with the subscriber, and the subscriber would reward the service provider by using them to book all travel arrangements and providing many opportunities to fulfill other service opportunities.

Another opportunity for m-commerce that leverages location information is real-time ticket-based applications. Think of the challenge of finding parking in many downtown areas?in some areas there are more people driving around looking for parking spaces than spaces to park in. Whether a user is a daily commuter or a one-time visitor, an application that calculates a route and allows a user to reserve (and pay for) a parking space near the destination would be a great value. The user's route would be modified to help provide directions to the parking spot, and the user would be routed on foot from the parking garage to the final destination. Other examples of ticket-based m-commerce application would be reserving and purchasing movie, concert, train, or plane tickets.