The next battleground for consumers will be via their smartphones and tablets. And the potential market will be massive, with eMarketer estimating that by the end of 2013, there will be over 30 million smartphone users in the UK alone.

The business case for the further development of m-commerce is clear. And with an appetite for digital goods that shows little sign of slowing, coupled with 4G fast data connections, the environment for a revolution in digital retailing is set to take place.

And it appears that UK consumers like to shop with their mobile devices: Research from VoucherCodes.co.uk has shown that nearly a quarter of Britons have used their phones to make a purchase.

Said Max Jennings, co-founder of VoucherCodes.co.uk: "With vast swathes of the general public smartphone equipped and smart shopping technology widely available to retailers, the conditions are right for a period of significant growth in m-commerce. The UK has traditionally been ahead of curve when it comes to e-commerce and it's good to see the same can be said for mobile retailing."

For businesses the advantages of selling digital goods is clear:

  • Inventory can be stored on low-cost cloud-based services
  • Delivery is direct to a consumer's device with no logistical processes to negotiate
  • Payment can be made instantly
  • Digital goods can be sold 24/7
  • Low overheads
  • Full integration into an existing online store

Many retailers with an existing online presence, selling digital goods that are complementary to their existing product lines can be a great additional sales channel that can deliver many upselling opportunities. It's important to assess what kind of digital products could be sold, and if they are appropriate for access and delivery via mobile devices.

It is also critical to understand the sales process. Services now exist that offer a one-stop-shop for budding e-goods retailers. From music and games, to digital accessories to personalise a mobile device, these services can help your business succeed in this new market. Some of the leading platforms include:

Says Phil Rothwell, marketing director at ecommerce software supplier, SellerDeck: "Singly m-commerce is the biggest game-changer in the digital product market. The PC isn't quite dead, but its role is changing and market share decreasing. The good news is that if you support Windows, iOS and Android devices, you'll cover most bases. The bad news is that scrambling up the m-commerce learning curve is going to take time and effort."

Facebook
Facebook is among the big names very interested in mobile commerce

The mobile digital economy

One of the most powerful aspects of mobile commerce is the immediacy that can be instilled in a potential customer. As these consumers see goods or services they want to buy they no longer have to wait – and potentially forget to make the purchase – when they get back to their desktop PC. They can make the purchase immediately using their phone or tablet.

As PayPal advise: "Rapid mobile adoption by consumers means that they no longer look at m-commerce as a novelty—they now expect leading merchants to provide them with a convenient, available-everywhere mobile shopping experience. And because mobile has the ability to influence in-store retail sales, with so many price comparison and location-based marketing mobile apps now available, m-commerce is as much an imperative as an opportunity for merchants."

Businesses that want to move into selling digital goods via mobile platforms should plan carefully to ensure the services they offer don't disappoint their customers. A survey from the Econsultancy is telling in that it revealed only 9% of consumers are happy with the payment system used on m-commerce sites. Just as a smooth and uncomplicated checkout process is vital on a website, this is even more important when selling digital products on mobile devices.

And as SellerDeck's Phil Rothwell continued, mobile commerce is a moving target that will mean your business has to constantly evolve its services across all mobile platforms. "Keeping up with new mobile platforms as they come on stream is a major problem, and one that the industry hasn't faced since the PC became ubiquitous," Phil advised.