Mobile Shoppers Fear Nakedness More Than Boredom

It's no surprise that people are using their smartphones in increasing numbers to buy stuff online. What is slightly surprising is what they're choosing to spend their money on.

Given that modern mobile phones can effectively replicate the browsing experience on desktops in many respects, it's not surprising that they're increasingly being used to shop online. eBay saw more than 2.5 million sales via mobile phones in Australia in 2010.

At a PayPal briefing yesterday, Nielsen senior research manager Lillian Zrim unveiled market size estimates for the main categories of mobile commerce in Australia. Nielsen calculated the numbers by surveying 100 existing mobile shoppers and then extrapolating the findings to a larger group, so there's undoubtedly some room for debate over them, but they make for interesting data nonetheless. Here's the dominant categories and the estimated total annual spend in Australia via mobile devices:

  1. Clothing: $20 million
  2. Books: $13 million
  3. Gifts: $12 million
  4. Financial products: $11 million
  5. Music: $9 million
  6. Movie tickets: $9 million
  7. Software: $7 million
  8. Games: $6 million
  9. Collectibles: $6 million
  10. Baby and child-related products: $5 million

The surprising factor in this collection (apart from all that clothes buying and the potential confusion a "gifts" category creates) is that digital goods — music, software, and games — aren't higher on the list. Most phones are designed to make the process of buying digital items as easy as possible (think of the Market on Android, or the iTunes store on an iPhone), and you might think that would make the category a bigger overall chunk of the space.

One possible explanation pointed to by Zrim is that while there may be frequent purchases of this kind on a mobile, they're normally for very small dollar amounts. A single pair of vaguely fashionable jeans would cover dozens of app purchases. Nielsen didn't disclose data on the average size of transaction in a given category, and that might not be meaningful given the original sample size, but it would definitely provide a different perspective.

Are there specific goods you buy more regularly on your mobile (like apps or music), or is it just another browsing device to you? Tell us in the comments.

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    Ahahaha! They extrapolated $98 million from 100 people!?

    Give me 5 minutes while I ask 10 of my friends what their buying habits are - That should extrapolate to about $1 million in sales, right?

      Nielsen probably worked harder on its sample than you did in picking 10 friends "at random" though :)

        I don't get your maths Jess-
        "surveying 100 existing mobile shoppers and then extrapolating the findings to a larger group , so there’s undoubtedly some room for debate over them"
        and c'mon, Angus-you wrote the article :P

      No, 10 people would extrapolate to around $9.8 million.

        My math was way off, thanks! :)

        Angus, fair enough, but surely 100 people isn't enough to accurately represent 20 million of the population (although, how many of those actually shop online?)

          Checks notes: It was 100 people who shop on their mobile phones, drawn from a larger group of 500 who shop online.

          I mentioned the number involved because Lifehacker encourages that :), but it's worth remembering that the confidence levels for a group of 100 people are much better than the confidence levels for a group of 10. Big commercial decisions often get made on the basis of what seem like small sample sizes (e.g. TV ratings), and the maths for this is pretty well-established.

    i wouldnt be so sure about how much work went to finding those 100 random people. The catergories themselves are bit too vague...where does clothing purchased as gifts go? does clothing fall into baby/child related as well for kids clothes? I think this is a cheap survey done to get people to use their stats and reference their name. Not sure how much of it is a true reflection on the current trends of internet shopping.

    I wonder what the age groups of the surveyed people were. I would imagine that would make a difference. Also, are these purchases purely through paypal? or through any shopping cart?

    I myself would rather buy things on my home computer. There isn't anything I can think of that cannot wait until I get home to order it. I guess if I was to use my phone I would be more likely to use it to buy music or apps, or to order pizza while I am at a friends or something. But none of those things get bought through paypal, so...

    It'd be interesting to see a breakdown of the sample by gender and by smartphone platform.
    iPhone users, for example, are renowned for their sense of style, so would be expected to invest heavily in clothing.

      iPhone users are also known as wankers, so would be expected to invest heavily in pornography.

        Complete and utter trolling but funny none the less... :)

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