From the January 2012 issue of Entrepreneur

Amy C. CosperBefore we go any further than this page, I must confess something. The word dongle cracks me up. Not a big deal in the scheme of things, I suppose, but since this month's cover story is about mobile commerce, dongles figure prominently in these pages. Each and every time I read through the issue, I laugh like a Beavis and Butt-Head-schooled imbecile. Sometimes at the end of the day I find myself randomly calling people "dongle berries," which, while childish, feels satisfying. So there you have it. Confession made. Let's move on.

In case you're wondering, a dongle (stop it) refers to the plug-in technology that turns a smartphone into a point-of-sale device. It's the magic behind services offered by Square, Pay Anywhere and App-Ninjas--three of the companies grabbing market share from this quickly evolving market (profiled in Jennifer Wang's story). To get a sense of the size and growth trajectory of this nascent market, consider that in 2011 mobile commerce sales hit $5.3 billion, up 83 percent from the previous year. Any time growth is up 83 percent, attention is absolutely required.

Related: Three Steps to Getting Started in Mobile Commerce

This rapid adoption rate of dongle-based technology underscores the importance of streamlined processes and highlights the fact that small businesses constantly seek to improve customer engagement. The sleek transparency and freedom these services bring to the business world (and the customer base) allows mobility, efficiency and immediacy. Oh, and add to that--those high (and sometimes hidden) transaction fees associated with traditional credit card processing are much more transparent and comprehensible with dongle services.

It's important to note that while the technology is dramatically changing the way businesses interact on a transactional level, it is also changing the way businesses interact on a personal and customer-service level. It's really a matter of reimagining the process, which is the secret sauce to innovation in business.

In much the same way that mobile phones liberated CEOs, presidents and business owners from the confines of the office, mobile commerce (or, "m-commerce," if you're feeling frisky) is liberating businesses from the fixed traditional point of sale. It really all boils down to the art of the dongle: the transaction, without which the business world would cease.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some dongle-berry insults to hurl at passers-by.

Amy C. Cosper
Amy C. Cosper,
Editor in chief
Follow me on Twitter, @EntMagazineAmy