Financials, travel, retail sectors to spark m-commerce explosion

Brand loyalty fades as consumers clamour for anywhere, anytime data accessThe second half of 2000 will witness an unprecedented explosion in mobile e-commerce, or so-called m-commerce, fuelled mainly by three industry segments: financial services, travel, and retail.

While many companies are still grappling with the problems of wired e-commerce, the demands of these three markets are causing companies to go further and target the mobile market. According to analysts, this is a necessary step because the target of these companies is a workforce of consumers displaying diminishing brand loyalty in order to access their business and personal data wherever they are.

"These are the industries that are time-and location-sensitive," said Kelly Quinn, senior analyst at Aberdeen Group.

And IDC predicts that by 2004 there will be 1 billion mobile phones worldwide, half of them Internet-enabled.

For traditional companies, maintaining existing customers rather than attracting new ones appears to be the greatest impetus for deploying a mobile solution. Mark Ebel, director of digital communication services at BestBuy, noted that an erosion of electronics purchases from bricks-and-mortar stores is under way.

"More than 500 consumer electronic stores closed in the past year alone," Ebel said.

In response to this, BestBuy in the next 30 days will launch BestBuy.byair.com, a wireless shopping site. BestBuy's intention is to use its wireless site as another method to stay connected to its increasingly mobile customer base.

"In this age of geographically diverse individuals who travel and want to provide gifts for family and friends, we believe Bestbuy.byair gives them a local feel," Ebel said.

And shopping mall owner General Growth Properties (GGP) is also looking to increase the face time with its current customer base with the launch of its Mallibu.com site.

Charlie Graves, senior vice president for e-business at GGP, said he believes that m-commerce is essential to the company's long-term supremacy.

Graves sees the benefits of mobile commerce.

"We have shoppers coming to a mall 50 times a year, and I don't even know their names. Now we can market to them exactly what they want when they want it," Graves said.

In the travel world, reservation systems company Galileo will be rolling out its mobile service to corporate travel departments and travel agents later this year. Users will be able to make and change flight reservations using their mobile phones and book rental cars and hotel rooms.

One industry analyst believes corporate agents will jump on the service as a way to keep track of changes made by its employees.

"Travellers tend to be cowboys who change their trips while they are travelling. The Galileo system updates the corporate agency of any changes the traveller makes and can be used to steer employees to preferred carriers," said Kate Rice, director of information services at Phocus Wright.

But as these established bricks-and-mortars stake their m-commerce claim, they will face competition from pure-play Internet companies trying to displace them with their own mobile-commerce initiatives.

* The wireless commerce horror, p18

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