As more and more consumers use their mobile devices to compare prices, search for product info and make purchases, it’s increasingly important that companies strategically follow their customers into the mobile space. Much like e-commerce before it, m-commerce is quickly moving from somewhat of a novelty to a key part of the price of admission for a successful business.

The 2009 holiday season will likely go down as a watershed moment for mobile commerce. Consumers made much more use of their increasingly ubiquitous smartphones for online shopping, with mobile online payments through Paypal on Black Friday surging nearly 650 percent, according to

And BusinessWeek’s “Tech Beat” blog reported in December that a Sanford C. Bernstein survey found nearly 30 percent of BlackBerry® users and more than 40 percent of iPhone® users reported substantial increases in their online shopping, using their phones for activities like locating stores, getting coupons and making purchases. 

Customer Service
As users continue to embrace mobile technology, the need to bring an easy-to-use, problem-free experience to their mobile devices is becoming more important. After years of e-commerce, Internet websites are already designed to create a comfortable experience for their visitors, and consumers expect a similar level of convenience and accessibility on their mobile devices.

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you’ve probably heard us talk about the importance of providing your customers with the tools they can use to improve their businesses and their lives. M-commerce isn’t any different – if your customers are making purchases in new ways, you need to be right there with them, and to provide them with the necessary tools to do so.

Seamless Integration
Effectively managing a mobile experience doesn’t end at designing a mobile website; it extends all the way through your company’s facilities and back-end operations.

The same problems that plagued businesses that made a late-transition to e-commerce will also plague businesses jumping into m-commerce if they haven’t learned from past mistakes. Years ago, shipping visibility largely meant a confirmation notice that a shipment was received by its recipient. But today, consumers and business people alike expect sophisticated real-time tracking technologies that can monitor their packages in transit and alert them to shipping exceptions. Of course, this must extend to on-the-go customers as well. 

The same is true for your business; mobile purchases have to be treated like every other purchase. For example, supply levels must be linked to your mobile site, website and brick and mortar locations so that product availability is accurately represented across these channels. In addition, mobile purchases need to be mainstreamed into your order entry, fulfillment and customer service processes.

Integrating m-commerce with your e-commerce and brick and mortar presence may not be as complicated as you might expect. Take the next step, and ask your web provider about testing the mobile landscape. You may be surprised at how many providers have a mobile platform that can be linked directly to your website.

Another option includes designing your own mobile application to simplify the m-commerce experience even more for your customers. These downloadable software programs can increase usability for mobile customers by providing them with an easier way to make purchases, gather information or track purchases, all from their mobile devices. UPS, for example, has launched mobile shipping apps for the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android™ that can create and track shipments, calculate shipping rates and time-in-transit, and then find the nearest location to drop off your package.

Mobile technology is about efficiency, access and convenience. By getting involved in m-commerce, you can extend your accessibility, and put your business at the fingertips of customers on the go. Providing your customers with the tools to shop via their preferred channel is an important step as we continue into an increasingly mobile age. 

The emergence of e-commerce provided an opportunity for businesses to adjust to the fundamental shift of their customers’ buying habits. Just as with e-commerce before it, embracing m-commerce sooner rather than later could be an important step for the long-term success of your business.

Jordan Colletta, Vice President of e-Commerce Marketing, is responsible for the marketing activities of UPS’ customer facing technology and Jordan is refining UPS’s e-commerce strategy, as well as delivering new solutions through the development of Internet-based technologies, applications and wireless access.