Picture this: you arrive in Helsinki for a business meeting. As you approach customs, you turn on your mobile phone and walk straight through the turnstile. During your stay, you pay for all purchases with your phone, which stores the receipt and sends a copy automatically to your company's expense account. For your personal time, the phone also provides a list of tourist attractions within walking distance of your hotel.
Meet the 21st Century and the world of uCommerce.
This is the ubiquitous future envisioned by researchers at the Accenture Institute for Strategic Change. In a recent research study, The Future of Wireless: Different than You Think, Bolder than You Imagine, the authors argue persuasively that wireless technology has the power to reshape whole industries and create a future that is altogether different from today's mCommerce (mobile commerce) world. Wireless will be bigger and more important than anyone imagines.
The brave new world of "uCommerce," as the authors call it, has several defining characteristics:
It is a world where economic activity is ubiquitous, unbounded by the traditional definitions of commerce, and universal with everyday, around-the-clock broadband connectivity.
It is a world where every platform -- the Internet, mobile devices, embedded sensors -- interfaces with everything else.
It is a world where mobile devices, combining features of wireless phones, hand-held organizers, PCs, and two-way pagers, become the one thing individuals cannot live without.
"We believe it is in the always-on world of uCommerce that the real value of the 'e' and 'm' will be realized," said John Beck, Director of Research at the Accenture Institute for Strategic Change, Palo Alto. "uCommerce is not a replacement for anything companies are doing today, but an extension of it. And it will be mandatory, not optional. But make no mistake about it: uCommerce is about major change."
According to the study, prospective players can expect stunning growth. The global market for wireless Internet-capable devices is set to grow 630% by 2005, by which time there will be more than 1.7 billion mobile connections. In the US alone, mCommerce transactions will be a $20 billion business. For those able to leverage the unique quality of these devices and tailor services and products that tap into the customer's location, context, and personal preferences, the opportunity is staggering.
The authors believe that companies must manage customer expectations and, at the same time, understand customer needs and behaviors. Rather than heading straight for mobile commerce, they urge players to focus on three strategies that have a strong human element - and the power to drive business.
1.Create intimacy.To drive wireless use, engage the user's heart and make the experience more intimate. Four ways for mobile devices to be more intimate, personal and social:
Make the devices about who users are, not what they do, so that colors, styles, and accessories allow them to become forms of self-expression.
Leverage voice capabilities to appeal to users who view text communication as cold.
Put fun into convenience 'ping' users when leisure events of interest to them are happening in the neighborhood, or send text alerts when friends are nearby or when birthdays are approaching.
Support social connection from the beginning with services that encourage easy and frequent contact.
2. Provide inspiration. Mobile devices provide an unprecedented opportunity to detect the moment when a potential customer is in the right frame of mind to buy -- and reach the customer with an appropriate, and welcome message. Because mobile devices can provide a customer's location, they make it easier for sellers to guess what they might be interested in right now.
3. Leverage identification. Turn wireless devices into electronic wallets that provide an easy and natural way to make "cash" or credit card purchases -- in local or foreign currencies -- as well as track receipts and store family photos.
The authors say that users are not interested in a one-size-fits-all approach. In fact, they seem to be asking for the opposite: a tailored information experience, and they are beginning to understand the trade-offs among the many communication choices. To capture the strategic high-ground, players need to understand how these user trade-offs apply in their markets.