Mobile Transactions: Playing with Numbers

Could it be that the only numbers growing faster than mobile transactions are statistics about mobile transactions?

According to a new one just out from ABI Research, mobile shopping will make up nearly a quarter of all global online shopping revenue by the end of 2017. That’s great news for companies invested in this arena, since it clearly represents a sharp spike over the current market, which other estimates place at 10%. However, the same source indicated back in February 2010 that mobile shopping would reach $119 billion in 2015, representing about 8% of the overall e-commerce market.

That’s obviously comparing apples to oranges, but the larger problem is that it’s virtually impossible to accurately predict what’s going to happen with regard to technology use. Technological capabilities are always advancing, and user habits are constantly evolving, but the two phenomena frequently seem unrelated. The emergence of new capabilities does drive usage, of course, just as human needs drive the development of those capabilities, but they seldom happen in tandem. The flood of statistics that keep changing illustrates this problem.

In particular, the intersection of money, technological capabilities and behavioral change make for a strange brew. This is the very essence of a moving target.

Consider mobile payments. Portio Research told us back in March 2010 that 81.3 million people worldwide had used mobile device to make payments the previous year. By the end of 2014, this was predicted to rise to nearly 490 million, or 8% of all mobile subscribers. In June 2011, Yankee Group was putting dollar signs into the mix, reporting that global mobile transactions would reach $241 billion in 2011, and jump to more than $1 trillion by 2015. Fast forward another year, and Gartner was reporting that the number for worldwide mobile payment transaction values in 2011 had been $105.9 billion, and will surpass $171.5 billion in 2012. Bringing it back to users, meanwhile, Gartner said there had been 160.5 million in 2011, and is set to jump to 212.2 million this year.

One more demonstration of how the numbers stack up, even if they don’t add up: Yankee Group identified EMEA as the mobile money hot spot, accounting for 41% of mobile transaction value in 2011, compared to 35% for North America, 22% percent in Asia-Pacific and just 1% percent in Latin America. Others saw it differently: According to IDTechEx (R&M), Feb 2011, Japan had 47 million users adopting tap-and-go phones in just three years, and at the very same time, ComScore was revealing that that in December 2010 alone, 10% of Japanese mobile subscribers had used their mobile wallet to make a purchase—a undeniably a high number.

And how about mobile banking? Try this: In the spring of 2010, Global Industry Analysts (GIA) predicted that the global customer base for mobile banking will reach 1.1 billion by the year 2015, while Berg Insight put the corresponding number at 894 million users. In the summer of 2011, Yankee Group brought the figure down further, to 500 million.

Enough already? For sure. In fact—and again, let’s acknowledge that all this involves mixing apples and oranges and a whole lot besides—it may be time for a moratorium on analyses and predictions. Instead, let’s focus more on what we can do to drive the market rather than track where it’s going.

Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices still coming down the pike are not just smaller PCs—they represent, and drive, a sea change in behavior. It’s our responsibility to offer applications and services that are flexible, convenient, customized and secure. And the only numbers that count are the ones where we beat even the most optimistic projections.

This article originally appeared as a guest post on MyBankTracker.com.

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