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Retail giants make 2002 the year for m-business

Daniel Thomas
Analysts have predicted that m-commerce adoption will be mainstream by the end of 2002, after three leading high street brands announced plans to boost their services by using mobile technology.

Tesco.com, the UK's leading online retailer, outlined its commitment to m-commerce with the planned release of a Pocket Shopper software application for download onto handheld devices.

The move follows Sainsbury's announcement that it will focus on m-commerce in 2002, starting with a mobile promotions trial for 10,000 of its Reward Card customers.

Duncan Brown, consulting director at analyst firm Ovum, said the fact that such large companies are planning m-commerce projects will help to strengthen the market. "These are big names on the stock market," he said. "This is likely to attract a variety of companies to m-commerce."

He added, "The m-commerce market is likely to meet critical mass by the end of the year. However, micropayments [using mobile devices instead of cash for low-value transactions] will not see much progress over the next 12 months."

Tesco.com's Pocket Shopper application, which is currently in development, will enable registered users with GPRS phones to log their orders on the move. These orders will then be automatically uploaded to Tesco.com when the device is synchronised with a desktop PC.

Sainsbury's move will initially enable customers to register to be notified of the latest in-store offers, but will also be used to test the potential of future mobile projects with a wider scope, the company said.

Meanwhile, hair stylist chain Toni&Guy has added a mobile element to its Web presence in a bid to increase revenue per customer and boost numbers during quiet trading periods.

Initially, the mobile offering, based on technology from software provider Materna, is restricted to customers being able to download Toni&Guy logos on to their mobile phones. However, in March, an e-mail marketing campaign will invite customers to download a vouchers on to their phones from the company Web site for discounts on visits to Toni&Guy salons.

Alex Michael, managing director of new media agency Sprite Interactive, which runs Toni&Guy's Web operations, said, "The special offers will be geared to quiet periods, such as Mondays, and we will also target information at particular clients, based on data from previous questionnaires. We hope this will lead to lots of additional purchases of Toni&Guy products."

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