EBay, PayPal see a very mobile future


EBay and its payment subsidiary PayPal’s mobile business is growing so fast that it’s hard to predict where things will end up, even months into the future. That’s one of the takeaways from the last year in which PayPal had to constantly revise its mobile payment predictions as payment volumes kept rising.

If you recall, PayPal said in the fall of 2010 that it expected to do some $1.5 billion in mobile payment volume for 2011 based on the $750 million in mobile payments it did in 2010. In April, it upped its estimate for 2011 to $2 billion, and then again in June, it revised its prediction, saying $3 billion in volume. By October, it said it now believed it was on pace to do $3.5 billion in mobile payment volume by the end of 2011. So how much mobile business did PayPal actually do? $4 billion, the company said this week at CES.

This isn’t about calling out PayPal for faulty predictions, but to point out that mobile is growing far faster than the company imagined. Mobile payment volume went from $750 million in 2010 to $4 billion a year later. That highlights the shift that’s happening as more and more payments, transactions and business flows through mobile devices.

EBay is also seeing this first hand. It did nearly $2 billion in mobile gross merchandise value in 2010, and then recorded $5 billion last year. Now, eBay is predicting it will do $8 billion in mobile GMV and PayPal will do $7 billion in mobile payment volume this year. Those numbers are a fraction of what the company does in total GMV on eBay and payment volume via PayPal, but the projected growth is very big, outpacing the company’s overall growth, and it reflects just how fast mobile is expanding. And if the past year is any indication, eBay could be very well be off in terms of how much volume actually flows through mobile.

We saw that this holiday season was boosted by mobile in a big way. IBM  reported earlier this week that 14.6 percent of all online sessions on a retailer’s site in December came from a mobile device, compared to 5.6 percent over the same period in 2010. IBM also said that sales from mobile devices doubled, reaching 11 percent of all online purchases versus 5.5 percent in December 2010. That no doubt helped online retails sales grow by 7.5 percent in December over the previous year.

This shift to mobile is increasingly going to become the norm, not just a holiday phenomenon. People are turning to mobile devices and they’re getting very comfortable with the idea of buying and paying through them. EBay is seeing this in a big way, but others will too if they aren’t already.

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