Harris Poll: 46% Willing to Make Purchases with Mobile Phones

Mobile payments is a hot topic. In Europe, Asia and places in the developing world mobile commerce is a daily fact of life. In the US a range of companies from Bango to PayPal to Visa are moving into the segment. Getting the infrastructure in place is one thing but will American consumers adopt mobile payments? To answer the question Harris Interactive conducted an online survey on behalf of Billing Revolution in April regarding attitudes toward mobile payments and billing (n=2,029 US adults, 1,883 mobile phone owners).

Here are the findings (mostly verbatim):

  • The majority (57%) of respondents trust credit card companies more than cell phone companies when it comes to accurately billing them for a payment
  • Older adults are significantly more likely than their younger counterparts to trust credit card companies more than cell phone companies (65% of those ages 55+ vs. 52% of those ages 18-34)
  • 93% of U.S. adults (93%) own a cell phone, and nearly half of these adults (45%) think it’s at least somewhat safe to make a purchase through their cell phone with 26% saying they think it’s fairly or very safe to do so
  • Assuming it was safe to make purchases through cell phones, nearly half of cell phone owners (46%) would be willing to make purchases this way.

Among the 46% who are open to mobile payments/commerce, here are the purchases they would feel comfortable making:

  • 75% would be willing to buy entertainment items, such as movie/event tickets (58%), music (41%), mobile video or TV content (24%) and games (34%).
  • 68% would buy food/drink items such as pizza (59%), fast food (42%), and/or coffee (25%)
  • 55% would be willing to purchase hotel rooms (43%) and/or tickets for travel (40%) this way

Demographic information:

  • Men who own a cell phone are more likely than their female counterparts to think it is safe to make purchases through their cell phones (50% of men think it’s at least somewhat safe vs. 39% of women)
  • Younger cell phone owning adults are also more likely than older counterparts to think it’s at least somewhat safe to make purchases (59% of those ages 18-34 vs. 34% of those ages 55+)
  • Those who own a cell phone and have a college degree or higher are more likely than those who own a cell phone and have a high school degree or less to think it’s at least somewhat safe (50% vs. 38% respectively)

These findings suggest that the long socialization and learning process surrounding e-commerce online has paved the way for so-called "m-commerce." A large number of US adults are already comfortable with mobile payments in the abstract (since almost no online is doing that in the US beyond ringtones, etc.).

The other interesting finding here is that people trust credit card companies compared with their carriers (I certainly agree). That suggests that in the US mobile payments and m-commerce could well develop outside the framework of the carrier billing system. If in fact that happens it will be yet another blow to operators seeking to find ways into new revenue streams. Carriers would be well advised to "open up" to third parties (with consumer safeguards) to avoid being marginalized both in mobile advertising and mobile payments.