The Danger Of Comparing Mobile Stats

You say potato, I say integrated mobile commerce infrastructure. Three reports released this week illustrate that however much confusion exists today about mobile commerce terminology, there's always room for more. When you see mobile projections, think hard and ask a lot of questions before you paste the data into a PowerPoint. Let's start with Tuesday (May 29): Two respected marketshare companies, Gartner and IHL, released reports about the mobile market.

Gartner said: "Worldwide mobile payment transaction values will surpass $171.5 billion in 2012, a 61.9 percent increase from 2011 values of $105.9 billion." Within minutes, a statement from IHL said: "Mobile in all aspects of retail is now a $5.5 billion market worldwide." Were these companies considering different countries, using different metrics? No, they were referencing two entirely different situations.

Gartner's figures were its guess as to how many dollars worth of transactions consumers would initiate through their mobile phones. IHL was looking at how many dollars retailers would spend to enable those purchases, such as the cost of buying tablets for associates or upgrading POS to support NFC.

Drilling into the IHL stats, it looks like IHL is projecting about $1.3 billion in straight software, $639 million for SaaS/Cloud, $2.8 billion for hardware and about $822 million for services.

Another report on mobile this week came from Juniper Research on Wednesday (May 30), and it gets the retail reach award. Sayeth the report: "More than 1 in 4 of U.S. and Western European mobile phone users will use their NFC-enabled mobile phone to pay for goods in-store by 2017, compared with less than 2 percent in 2012." But Juniper's statement gave no indication of how that figure was created.

Is it shoppers answering a survey? In which case, what is the credibility of a consumer in 2012 predicting how he or she will pay for goods five years from now? Consumer surveys are hardly accurate in predicting what candidate they'll vote for in two days.

Projecting how consumers will react to a payment method in five years is absurd. What other technologies will then be in place? What incentives will retailers be offering for alternative payments? In a half decade, will the "phone" even be recognizable as a phone using 2012 standards? Look at some of the predictions made in 2007 about what the 2012 mobile space would look like, and then let's talk.

Projections are great, and they are necessary. But some things are going to be subject to so many unknowns that long-range projections are simply silly. Projecting what will ship in December based on manufacturing levels is fine. But when you start trying to project what consumers will do, that's where credibility takes a hike.