Mobile commerce is poised to explode this year, says online marketing and research firm Compete based on a new survey. But to keep mobile consumers from abandoning purchases, retailers must optimize sites for mobile, the research finds.

Mobile commerce is poised to explode this year, says online marketing and research firm Compete, which has found in new research that 37% of smartphone owners purchased merchandise via their phones in 2009.

However, smartphone owners are not all alike, the firm says. “We’re seeing notable behavior differences across devices. So, for example, users of the Android operating system share different characteristics than BlackBerry and iPhone enthusiasts,” says Danielle Nohe, director of consumer technologies at Compete. “As marketers better understand how each group actually uses their devices, there’s a huge potential in 2010 for mobile commerce to explode.”

Key findings from Compete’s Smartphone Intelligence survey include:

  • 19% of smartphone owners have purchased music from their devices; 14% have purchased books, DVDs or video games; and 12% have purchased movie tickets.
  • 40% of Android owners and 51% of Blackberry owners would spend $500 or more to buy a product on a mobile phone, compared to 9% of iPhone owners.
  • The most popular mobile shopping-related activities have to do with research-41% of iPhone users and 43% of Android users are most likely to check sale prices at alternative locations from their mobile phones while they are shopping.
  • The second-most likely activity is accessing customer reviews, with 39% of iPhone owners and 31% of Android owners investigating reviews from their handsets before they purchase.

While m-commerce is poised for growth in 2010, consumers are likely to abandon purchases on sites that are not optimized for the on-the-go experience, just as online consumers often abandoned poorly design shopping carts in the early days of e-commerce, Compete says. The Smartphone Intelligence survey found that 8% of smartphone owners that tried to purchase a product on their devices were unable to do so. 45% of those that abandoned the process reported they did so because the site would not load, and 38% left the site because it was not developed specifically for smartphone users.

“Retailers are beginning to recognize that smartphone use is no longer limited to an exclusive group of tech-savvy consumers,” Nohe says. “As these devices proliferate-and people grow more comfortable transacting-site owners must redesign around mobile shopping ease-of-use.”