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The wallet goes virtual

Mobile applications are turning cell phones into tools for on-the-go commerce

June 06, 2010|By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

Meanwhile, competition for buying online tickets for events — the market that MissionTix is in — could threaten the hegemony of larger operators, such as Ticketmaster, at least in smaller, regional markets such as Baltimore. MissionTix is among scores of small companies across the country that has found a niche in online event ticketing.

Ticketmaster has introduced mobile ticketing using barcodes on cell phones in the United Kingdom, but the technology is not yet available in the United States.

MissionTix makes money off a small service fee on each ticket sale, and the fees vary based on the size and type of event. People attending a theater production at a local high school, for example, would pay a lower service charge than someone attending a concert at a music venue, company officials said.

The electronic barcode ticketing eliminates the prospect of scalping, but it also means a ticket can't be given to, say, a friend. In such a case, the ticket owner would have to print out a copy of the ticket for gifting, according to Mission Media's Loverde.

"We're very much at a transition point," said Holland, the mobile commerce analyst. "I think there's going to be some radical business model shakeups" due to mobile commerce, he said.

Consumer trust in using smart phones for purchasing online has been rapidly evolving in the past year or so, Holland said. That's building on previous consumer behavior — for years, they have been able to buy such digital, virtual items as ringtones for their phones.

The variety of online mobile applications has exploded in recent years. Apple Inc.'s App Store for the iPhone now offers around 200,000 applications, with many allowing people to buy real or virtual goods such as songs, ringtones, electronic books or games.

Other mobile app stores, offered for BlackBerry and Google Android phones, also are putting the power to buy directly into consumers' hands. Holland said the proliferation and adoption of mobile applications has helped build trust in consumers' minds for completing transactions with their cell phones.

"The end user is becoming accustomed to using a mobile device the same way they've used their home PC," Holland said.

gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

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