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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mobile shopping is worrying... and usually successful

Mark Bridge writes:

I really don’t like to complain. Honestly, I don’t. I’m an optimist. True, I can be a bit of a cynic – but that’s because I like to see things work first time.

So when I saw a headline that said “Shopping via mobile phone causes concerns for consumers”, I wasn’t surprised. Disappointed but not surprised.

And then I looked closer – and I got annoyed. Not annoyed at the companies that make mobile shopping so disappointing. No, annoyed at the organisation that published the report.

It came from Consumer Focus, which is the UK’s ‘voice of the consumer’. It’s the consumer watchdog created when energywatch, Postwatch and the National Consumer Council were merged.

It says the new research, which was compiled from 11 countries including the UK, highlighted major concerns about the experiences of ‘mobile shoppers’. Apparently information about costs, terms and conditions, customer services and subscriptions was either not provided or was unclear in many cases. And many premium-rate services left customers facing unexpected costs or paying for unwanted goods and services.

That’s dreadful news for mobile shoppers in the UK. Except – well – let’s look closer at the survey. (Here’s a pdf if you want to do it yourself).

Researchers purchased 112 goods and services using mobile phones in 11 countries earlier this year. That’s pretty much ten purchases per country. So this warning from the UK’s watchdog is based on ten mobile phone purchases.

“Did you experience problems?”, the researchers were asked. In the UK’s case, the answer was “yes”. Uh-oh. 100%. Every single purchase. Not unwanted subscriptions, though. Not defective items. Not incorrect deliveries. They were all fine. No, 100% of problems were caused by “other”. A bit vague, I’d say. But no problems whatsoever with the purchases of physical items or e-tickets, which means the press release headline could as easily have been “UK shopping via mobile phone for real-world items always delivers”.

Now, I’m not saying the mobile shopping experience was perfect. Far from it. I'm not an apologist for the mobile industry. There were problems. But what’s as worrying is the small sample size and the gaps in some of the answers. “Not stated” appears as an option on a number of graphs. Not yes or no but what seems to be “our researcher didn’t tell us”.

Anyway, if you want to know more about who and how, the answers are in a separate pdf document. Don’t get me wrong, the survey provides some useful guidance for mobile retailers… but I’d be a bit embarrassed if that was my research.

Author: The Fonecast
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