Handset brings the mall to you
Hitomi Terada is in the mood to shop. The 18-year-old has no credit card and very little cash on her, but that doesn’t matter: all she needs to shop at her favourite mall is the cellphone that rarely leaves her sight.
Two or three days later the goods arrive at her home, along with the bill, which she pays at her local post office.
Terada is one of millions of young Japanese women behind the phenomenal growth of mobile shopping.
According to a report by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and Ecom, a body that promotes next-generation electronic commerce, “m-shopping’’ was worth Â¥971-billon in 2004, a 25% increase from the year before, with sales of clothes and jewellery leaping by 80%.
Industry watchers are impressed, but not surprised, by the pace of the m-commerce boom.
“There is a quaint custom of catalogue shopping in Japan,’’ says Lawrence Cosh-Ishii, director of digital media at the online publication Wireless Watch Japan. “It’s not like in the US, where most people want to touch what they’re buying first. In that sense, it isn’t such a huge leap, especially when you consider how often people already use their handsets.’‘
The Girls Walker range of online magazines, which offer free sign-ups to sites aimed at fashion-conscious youngsters, have about seven million subscribers. More than 70% of them are women aged between 20 and 34 whose obsession with getting their hands on the latest fashions, cosmetics and jewellery has made the site the most popular portal of its kind since its launch in June 2000.
With more than 43-million Japanese people now using 3G handsets, other firms are taking advantage of the online shopping boom.
Later this year Toshiba will release software that enables online shoppers to check the quality and reputation of items simply by taking snaps of barcodes with their cellphone cameras.
The information is automatically sent to a server, which then searches blogs for reviews, summarises them and sends them back to the user in seconds.—Â