While m-commerce is growing, the biggest turn-off to potential customers is poor site design, according to Compete’s quarterly Smartphone Intelligence survey. Thirty-seven percent of smartphone users have purchased something non-mobile in the last six months. The major obstacle to upping this number is that many sites are broken. Eight percent of customers who tried to make a mobile purchase were unable to do so. That’s almost one-in-ten potential purchases failing at POS.

Forty-five percent of consumers abandoned purchases because their site wouldn’t load, and 38 percent did the same because the site wasn’t optimized for phones.

Perhaps due to these technical glitches, consumers are most comfortable making small purchases with their mobile phones. Owners of five devices (Android, Windows, iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm) overwhelmingly said that the most they would be willing to spend via mobile transaction was less than $10.00.

iPhone owners, however, were a little different in this category.

While the ‘under $10.00’ response was chosen by between 40 percent (Android) and 55 percent (Palm), only 28 percent of iPhone users preferred such small payments. Perhaps iPhone owners are ahead of the curve on the future; perhaps the ubiquity of iPhone apps has made them more accustomed to m-commerce; perhaps this segment just plain spends more money.

Who knows, but the difference in responses is enough to say the iPhone consumers act/think differently than owners of other smartphones when it comes to purchasing behavior, a trend that's becoming increasingly evident as smartphones proliferate

“We’re seeing notable behavior differences across devices,” said Danielle Nohe, Compete’s director of consumer technologies. “For example, users of the Android operating system share different characteristics than Blackberry and iPhone enthusiasts.”

The good news is that the barriers to m-commerce adoption are technological and not sociological. The consumer behavior is already there; companies just need to better the tech to take advantage of the smartphone boom.

“Retailers are beginning to recognize that smartphone use is no longer limited to an exclusive group of tech savvy consumers,” Nohe said.

“As these devices proliferate – and people grow more comfortable transacting, site owners must redesign around mobile shopping ease-of-use,” Nohe said.

By Mark Alvarez