M-Commerce: The Way of the Future
The idea of m-commerce, which is short for ‘mobile commerce,’ is one whose time has truly come. Because there have been so many recent advances in wireless technology the number of individuals who use mobile devices has increased rapidly. E-commerce is often conducted on these devices and this is also moving at a rapid pace. There are several new types of e-commerce transactions and many of these use wireless telecommunications networks and other technologies to conduct business through mobile devices (Barnett, 2000). This has been called mobile commerce and is increasingly known as either m-commerce or mobile e-commerce (Barnett, 2000). There are many constraints and special characteristics related to mobile devices, and because of this mobile commerce is operating in an environment that is much different from transactions conducted over the Internet (Barnett, 2000). There are so many more market opportunities with mobile commerce because it can be personalized to an individual and it is much more flexible (Barnett, 2000).
The business world and the telecommunications industry both will likely see mobile commerce as one of the major focuses within the immediate future (Gosh & Swaminatha, 2001). It is estimated that the mobile commerce market, when considered globally, is worth almost $200 billion (Gosh & Swaminatha, 2001). Meshing the Internet and mobile devices together, however, does present as many challenges as it does opportunities. These challenges are very important because they will have to be considered and dealt with as time goes on. To the technical and business obstacles that come along with mobile commerce one can add the legal issues (Barnett, 2000). Traditional law has generally not been applied to the mobile Internet in ways that were straightforward and comfortable for all. Many of the same issues that plague the Internet will also plague mobile commerce as well. How to maintain privacy, how to protect intellectual property, how Internet taxation should be treated, and how defamation should be dealt with are only some of the issues (Gosh & Swaminatha, 2001). There are significant challenges posed to the legal structure of this country by the wireless Internet just as there was from the wired Internet.
There are also other challenges that are important to discuss. The first of these is that there is a great deal of investment risk involved (Barnett, 2000). Implementing an operating that has anything to do with mobile commerce in business is a huge investment and there are often huge system changes and organizational changes that can be considered massive and complicated. Many of these are also extremely expensive and organizations often wonder how they will be able to obtain a good payoff for the investment that they make (Barnett, 2000). It is often difficult to understand many of the costs and benefits that come with mobile commerce. Customer confidence is also a concern because there are system reliability and stability issues with mobile commerce that may make customers feel unsafe relating to issues such as their financial information and their wireless transactions (Barnett, 2000).
Operational support and comprehensive technical support given to users would help to increase their satisfaction and give them more positive experiences (Barnett, 2000). By doing this the service provider’s reputation would be enhanced and the customer’s loyalty would be built up (Barnett, 2000). Potentially one of the largest challenges faced by mobile commerce is that most who begin to use it get frustrated after several attempts and stop using it because it is often difficult to operate (Barnett, 2000). Having a simple experience that relates directly to their mobile needs is what these users need and they will not be able to enjoy the benefits of immediacy if they do not have simplicity in the use of their mobile devices (Barnett, 2000).
There are several technical drawbacks that mobile devices suffer from and this helps to restrict mobile commerce to a certain degree. These mobile devices tend to have small multifunction keypads and very small screens, less memory, disk capacity, and computational power, a shorter battery life, input mechanisms for text that are often complicated, a higher risk of transaction and data storage errors, a low display resolution, interfaces that are often unfriendly, and limitations to the graphics, among other things (Gosh & Swaminatha, 2001). In addition to this there are also technical restrictions that are often related to wireless networks as compared to wired networks. These include higher cost, less stability of connections, less predictability for the connection, lack of standardized protocol, and less bandwidth (Gosh & Swaminatha, 2001). However, even though these issues are somewhat of a concern there are many markets for mobile commerce.
There are several features of mobile commerce that are not available with traditional e-commerce and the top four of these are important to discuss here. The first is ubiquity (Dugan, 2000). Business entities can reach their customers anywhere in the world at any time with mobile devices and users of these devices can get any type of information they might be interested in no matter where they are with mobile devices which are Internet enabled (Dugan, 2000). Personalization is another important issue because those who seek information, applications, commerce, and services in this manner are looking for information that is extremely relevant to what they need at that point in time (Dugan, 2000). There are different sets of applications and services that many users require and because of this the applications that relate to mobile commerce can be personalized to provide services or to represent information dealing with only that specific user (Dugan, 2000).
Another important issue deals with flexibility (Dugan, 2000). Mobile devices are portable and because of this the users of them can engage in traveling, meeting other individuals, and countless other activities while still receiving information or conducting any kind of transactions that is necessary through their mobile device (Dugan, 2000). Dissemination is the fourth reason that mobile commerce seems to be so popular (Dugan, 2000). Being able to disseminate information to a large group of individuals is very important and there are several wireless infrastructures that allow for mobile users within a specific geographic region to receive data simultaneously (Dugan, 2000). In addition to these important reasons there are other value added applications that can be utilized with mobile commerce. The mobile environment is more immediate and more personalized than much of what the Internet already has and by extending the Internet sales channels into this environment the business world is revolutionized (Dugan, 2000).
There are tremendous opportunities with which to provide additional value to customers that are often hard to reach. Some of these value added services can include: timeless and easy access to information, the immediate opportunity to purchase something, wireless coupons that are created based on the profile of the user, withdrawals and deposits from banks, and a buddy finding feature that helps users locate a friend or colleague, or the nearest restaurant or ATM (Liebmann, 2000). There is really no upper limit to the amount and type of mobile commerce applications that are available. There are, however, several classes of applications that are considered to be the most important. These include global inventory management, mobile advertising, mobile finance applications, and product location shopping (Liebmann, 2000).
By creating still more innovative possibilities for mobile commerce in the various applications that are already being used, business will be broadened and technology will continue to evolve further. Generally, wireless devices include phones, handheld computers, vehicle mounted interfaces, and laptops (Liebmann, 2000). These devices must be made light and small in order to be easily carried and most mobile devices that are very popular are also multipurpose so that only one device needs to be carried (Liebmann, 2000). The main participants in this mobile commerce are the customer, the content provider, the mobile portal, and the mobile network provider (Liebmann, 2000). The customer will be able to start a transaction in one area, receive that service in another area, and complete that particular transaction in another area. These areas can be in different cities, in different states, or even in different countries (Liebmann, 2000).
A mobile portal is somewhat different from an Internet portal and allows for greater degrees of localization and personalization of its customers (Liebmann, 2000). A mobile network provider plays various roles in mobile commerce (Liebmann, 2000). This can be only a simple network provider, to an intermediary, a portal or a trusted third party (Liebmann, 2000). This depends largely on where in the mobile commerce chain this mobile network provider stands. There is still skepticism that surrounds mobile commerce but despite this there is also much optimism in both the academic and industrial communities. Social, technical, and other challenges still remain and must be overcome before mobile commerce will become something that is utilized by more individuals, however (Liebmann, 2000).
The coming years will likely see better functionality and other improvements that will allow for mobile commerce to come into the global marketplace (Liebmann, 2000). There will be fundamental changes made to business strategies, supply chains, customer relations, and resource planning, and many of these will be dramatic and revolutionize many industries (Liebmann, 2000). The revolution has actually already begun but it is not yet complete and is still in its infancy (Barnett, 2000). When it is finally completed numerous aspects of everyday life for many individuals will be impacted. Real-time data will help to assist decision makers, transform the way individuals do business, and exert a great deal of influence on the communication that businesses have with each other and how they develop their relationships with their customers (Dugan, 2000). Even though there are drawbacks, there are so many benefits that mobile commerce, or m-commerce, is truly the way of the future.
Barnett, N., Hodges, S., & Wilshire, M.J. (2000). M-Commerce: An Operator’s Manual. McKinsey Quarterly, 3, 162-173.
Dugan, S.M. (2000, June 19). Oh the Horror, the Horror: the New World of Wireless Commerce Runs Amok. Info World, 22, issue 25, 92. Retrieved April 20, 2004, at http://www.libfind.unl.edu:2020/journals/iris/busis.html
Gosh, A.K., & Swaminatha, T.M. (2001). Software Security and Privacy Risks in Mobile E-Commerce. Communications of the ACM, 44(2), 51-57.
Liebmann, L. (2000, September). Preparing for M-Commerce. Communication News, 37(9), 132. Retrieved April 20, 2004, at http://www.libfind.unl.edu:2020/journals/iris/busis.html
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