Mobile Commerce “On Hold” in U.K. Says Survey

[London, ENGLAND] Most U.K. companies have put plans for mobile commerce on hold, according to a new survey released Friday.

The survery of 500 U.K. companies, conducted for e-business Expo 2000, Computer Weekly and Compaq, shows that no fewer than 62 percent of them are adopting a “wait and see” policy towards m-commerce, citing a whole range of reasons for their caution.

Twenty percent of the companies said they considered m-commerce to be an unproven technology, while 19 percent said lack of budget was a contributory factor. 18 percent cited skills shortages and 17 percent said there was a lack of support for m-commerce at the top level.

Not surprisingly, many companies — 31 percent — simply reported that they were concentrating on other areas. Yet there appears to be plenty of evidence that even those that could benefit from m-commerce in the long-term are not currently proceeding with it.

With a mastery of understatement, Mike Johnston, director of new economy business at Compaq U.K. and Ireland, acknowledged that WAP is not the killer application. He said it has, however, given everyone a glimpse of the mobile Internet opportunity.

Johnston said the approach to m-commerce should be similar to working in the Internet space – “try it, fix it, analyse it.” The market is moving so fast, he said, that businesses cannot work in the “traditional plan, plan some more, implement and adjust model.”

“UK businesses cannot afford to sit back and wait until the technology matures — by that stage it will be too late,” warned Johnston.

On the bright side, the survey is upbeat about growth in the m-commerce market. Although most companies have no activity currently scheduled, 22 percent expected to use WAP in the future. The figures for other technologies were Bluetooth and 3G both at 11 percent, and GPRS 9 percent.

The highest scores in the survey came from questions relating to the benefits of m-commerce. 44 percent thought it would bring better customer service; 37 percent said it would give them a competitive advantage; 30 percent said it would help them access new markets.

If m-commerce mainly benefits the customer, it is not unexpected that U.K. firms would put it on hold. When start-ups and foreign companies begin to grab a market share, as they did in the wired Internet revolution, attitudes will be forced to change, again.

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