Smartphones have totally changed how individuals and businesses operate and communicate, with many relying on their devices for many of their daily activities. As customers grow more comfortable with using their smartphones for purposes as diverse as sharing photos and applying for loans, mobile commerce has become one of the most important internet trends of this decade. Businesses, both large and small, are realising that they need to capitalise on this phenomenon if they are to attract and retain customers.

Mobile device functionality is continuously expanding

Smartphones and tablets have all but replaced devices that were once separate: cameras, alarm clocks, diaries and even computers. As they perform more advanced functions, they are increasingly being used to run almost every aspect of a small business. Everything from managing your financials, storing files, working on documents, making calls and sending emails, liaising with customers and taking payments can be done from your mobile device.

The uses of mobile commerce are becoming more diverse

Investopedia defines mobile commerce as the use of wireless handheld devices such as cellular phones and laptops to conduct commercial transactions online.

Most of the discussion relating to mobile commerce is about making payments from a mobile phone. For example, logging on to YuppieChef from your iPhone to buy some new goodies for your kitchen, or using your Blackberry to pay for the latest gadgets on Takealot.com. Mobile commerce also covers the use of mobile payment apps such as SnapScan and even mobile payment solutions such as Apple Pay, where you pay for items in-store with your mobile (described in our previous blog).

Smartphones can receive payments as well as make them

A less talked about application of mobile commerce is using a mobile device to receive and process payments. This is a world of chance for small business owners who can use their mobile phones and tablets’ 3G and Bluetooth connection, a mobile app and a mobile card reader to take payments from customers just about anywhere that there’s signal.

Smartphones and tablets are rising in numbers in South Africa

Mobile penetration in SA stands at about 133%. Venture capital firm KPCB estimates that 31% of the 73 million mobile phone subscriptions in South Africa (23.6 million) are smartphones, the perfect opportunity for mobile commerce to thrive and for smartphones to become a way for small businesses to accept payments. Strong annual growth in the sale of tablets, demonstrated by recent data from technology research consultants International Data Corporation (IDC), will also create a great opportunity for mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) to become more widespread.

Consumers want to pay accessibly, rapidly and securely

Mobile devices have also impacted our lifestyles and mindsets. Today’s consumer wants speed and convenience when it comes to mobile payments. They also expect to be able to transact anytime and anywhere, and for their sensitive data to be kept secure. Mobile POS devices allow you to sell your products and services anywhere, anytime. Offering your customers the choice of paying by card means you’ll avoid having to chase up late EFT payments, simultaneously improving your cash flow. Besides the competitive advantage of being able to accept credit and debit card payments, you’ll be able to track your entire transaction history online.