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Most retailers not prepared to sell over mobile: chief, the online arm of the National Retail Federation, expects e-commerce to grow to $259 billion this year, an 18 percent increase from $220 billion in 2006. E-commerce this year will account for more than 9 percent of total retail sales across channels, up from a 3 percent share in 2001.

So where does mobile commerce fit into this picture?

 It would seem that sales over the mobile phone are a natural extension of ecommerce, especially with the growing availability of HTML browsers on handsets.

And yet, executive director Scott Silverman is convinced that mobile commerce in the United States is “light years away” from taking off. He discusses mobile commerce’s opportunities and challenges with Mobile Marketer’s Lauren Mooney in this interview.

What’s holiday 2008 shaping up to be like for e-commerce? Projections for this season?
As of early December, we’re off to a strong start and we seem to be on pace to meet the forecasted sales growth of approximately 20 percent compared to 2006.

Any key trends this year? And how are they different from last year?
Three trends are playing out. First, due to concerns about the economy, retailers have been aggressive and early with their promotions. Shoppers responded well during the Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday.  The key is whether the strong start will hold steady through the rest of the season.

Next, we witnessed Cyber Monday become a permanent fixture on the retail calendar. Finally, we saw multichannel retailers use the Internet more this year to promote Black Friday store activity, which is a great sign of the emergence of cross-channel retailing.

Interestingly enough, we’re noticing more retailers, wireless carriers and electronics companies are pitching mobile phones online for the holidays.  What does this tell you?
Mobile phones, primarily driven by excitement around the iPhone and similar devices, are crossing over into the consumer realm and have become attractive gift ideas.

New mobile devices with HTML Web browsers and a greater awareness of mobile’s potential could drive more e-commerce sales. What do you think?
Web surfing and buying on your phone are currently clunky experiences, especially buying items that require deep product information such as apparel.  There are some interesting shopping applications in use today, however, that don’t involve buying items on your phone.  One of them is from a company called NearbyNow that allows shoppers to search merchandise available at local shopping centers using text messages.

Are retailers prepared to sell over mobile phones? Or are they still thinking only of online, store and catalog?
The majority of retailers are not prepared to sell over mobile phones.  While they hear about mobile e-commerce taking off in other parts of the world, the idea of it happening in the U.S. seems light years away.  With traditional e-commerce still growing at 20 percent per year, investments in mobile commerce are very small.

So what’s the opportunity here for mobile commerce?
The opportunity is to draw a bridge between “crazy idea that is bound to happen” and real-life case studies from retailers that have benefited greatly from mobile commerce. There needs to be more evidence on how it can be done today and what preparations a retailer needs to make.

We also need further browser developments, an improved commerce Web site experience and other infrastructure improvements.

This would seem like a natural extension for to help retailers extend their e-commerce opportunity to mobile. Any plans?
Yes. wants to educate our members about the potential of mobile marketing and mobile commerce and provide them with realistic next steps for moving forward.

For example, Andy Nulman, president and chief marketing officer of Airborne Mobile, is giving a keynote presentation at our upcoming Strategy and Innovation Forum Jan. 22-24 in Orlando.  Andy will help our audience decide if mobile is a fast-approaching reality, pure hype or some combination of the two.