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M's the Word

Mobile commerce is starting small.

Imagine customers waving mobile phones and-poof!-buying products. It should become a reality soon enough. "Consumers will ease into m-commerce," says Andrew Cole, an analyst at Boston research firm Adventis. "They'll overcome their anxieties [by making] small purchases."

Those small charges, or "micropayments," didn't always interest the big players. But with more online merchants testing m-commerce devices, powerhouses such as Cingular and Visa International are storming the field.

Visa is testing its OmniPay program in Italy, where cell phones are used to buy everything from food to music. Ditto for Australia, where the Click to Pay program lets users buy books and CDs. In the United States, Cingular is using a micropayment system to sell customized cell-phone ring tones for 99 cents each. When customers purchase one, the charge appears on their mobile-phone bills.

You can expect the m-commerce trend to gain momentum-and when that happens, you'll want your business to be ready.

Robert McGarvey is the author of How to Dotcom.

This story appears in the October 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »