eBay mobile sales jump shows upward trend in buying goods using smartphones

Dec 14, 2010
Tech

Auction and retailer hub eBay (EBAY) released numbers saying that its top-grossing day for sales made using mobile devices, which is referred to as “Mobile Sunday,” posted as much as $5 million in the U.S. and $13 million worldwide. That might not seem like a lot, but remember, those are sales made exclusively by people […]

Auction and retailer hub eBay (EBAY) released numbers saying that its top-grossing day for sales made using mobile devices, which is referred to as “Mobile Sunday,” posted as much as $5 million in the U.S. and $13 million worldwide.

That might not seem like a lot, but remember, those are sales made exclusively by people accessing eBay using mobile apps — not eBay’s primary market, but still a growing number of consumers.

This year’s Mobile Sunday is significant because it was a pretty big increase over last year. The report says the gross merchandise volume for the second Sunday in December increased 127 percent for the U.S. and 165 percent for the world. It would seem more people are making use of mobile devices to make purchases, at least on eBay, and that they’re spending more.

App developers are noticing this trend, too, and many are working hard to provide more and more outlets that give users the ability to make purchases anywhere. Amazon.com (AMZN) recently released a new app called Price Check that allows users to scan barcodes and quickly comparison shop with the prices available on its website. The eBay mobile app offers that function, too — and there are apps that scan prices and make comparisons with local shops and big box stores using your location data, as well.

Location-based services gaining traction

Location-based services apps have been picking up steam as a retail force, with several apps working hard to get users to share their GPS data in return for various deals. Signpost, a recently released app, uses the iPhone GPS to basically show its users where retailers are offering sales or bargains around their specific locations. It isn’t the only one, either: Visa recently added location-based services to its mobile app, providing cardholders with deals at something like 50 different retailers, just for showing up.

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And then there’s Google (GOOG), which seems to be the front-runner for making location-based services the next big thing in how we spend money. Google is making strides in a lot of different areas that all seem to be leading in the same direction — persistent location tracking that allows you to buy things without even pulling out your wallet.

Google just dropped Latitude on iPhone users, a social networking app that features persistent location tracking — instead of checking in, the app monitors your GPS data and shares it with a group of people you specify, allowing your friends to see where you are and vice versa. You can adjust privacy settings within the app, but the primary function is to let you keep tabs on friends, and let friends keep tabs on you. And, in a largely unreported sale, Google bought Zetawire, a company that works on mobile payment technology.

Near-field communication the next big thing?

So in addition to releasing a location-sharing app and preparing to be able to facilitate paying for things using smart phones, Google is also working on a new technology in smartphones, specifically on devices that run its Android operating system. It’s called near-field communication, and it should start appearing on Android phones when Google drops its next big OS update, Android 2.3 — also known as Gingerbread.

NFC allows phones to pick up signals from chips in the world and trade information with them. For example, say you walked into a movie theater with your NFC phone: chips in movie posters that you passed could instantly send you information about films, with trailers and showtimes — and eventually (pretty soon, it seems), with the ability to instantly buy tickets from the nearby ticket booth. Or popcorn from the concessions stand: using your phone, not your credit card.

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It sounds different than eBay’s idea of mobile sales, but the only real difference is where you stand when you make your transaction — whether you’re at home or in a store, you’re still basically paying for goods using a smartphone app. Get ready to be able to do that a lot, in many different ways. The people who make apps want you to be able to spend money as easily as possible, and it looks like they have a lot of good ideas how to make that happen. The plus side comes in the form of coupons and convenience — and there seems to be no shortage of either.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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