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Mobile Gets Rolling

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Retailers are increasingly feeling the impact of mobile technology everywhere from marketing and merchandising to the in-store experience.

According to comScore, smartphone adoption in the United States grew 52 percent between January 2011 and January 2012. While the user base is considerably smaller, tablet adoption during this same period grew an impressive 216 percent. With devices in tow, consumers are tapping away wherever they are to connect with family and friends, check the weather — and shop. This year, research has delved into how consumers are using smartphones and tablets to shop, while also getting a feel for how retailers are using mobile as part of their marketing and merchandising strategies.

Let’s begin by addressing skepticism about mobile’s potential for direct revenue. The “2012 Social and Mobile Commerce Consumer Study,” jointly conducted by, comScore and The Partnering Group, found that one-quarter of U.S. smartphone owners and one-third of tablet owners said they had completed a purchase on their device. The study also showed that nearly 10 percent of online consumer spending in the fourth quarter of 2011 was transacted via a smartphone or tablet.

Given that Forrester Research estimates e-commerce accounts for approximately 7 percent of U.S. retail sales, total mobile sales remain relatively small, but nevertheless tripled, year over year, in Q4 2011 according to comScore — significant growth that portends strong future growth.

Of course, direct sales revenue hardly paints the complete picture of mobile’s impact on retail. Our study revealed that nearly one-third of U.S. smartphone owners have used their device to take a picture of a product, search for a store, research products and prices, send pictures of products to friends and text or call friends and family to discuss a product; tablet owners do much of the same. In other words, mobile is influencing all kinds of store, catalog and online purchasing behavior, and retailers have been busy testing and adapting their marketing and merchandising tactics accordingly.’s “The State of Retailing Online 2012: Mobile Marketing” study, conducted with Forrester Research, finds that the mobile marketing tools retailers use now include QR codes and other barcode scanning (75 percent), smartphone paid search campaigns (55 percent) and mobile e-mail optimization (52 percent). In terms of e-mail specifically, these retailers also noted that, on average, 20 percent of marketing campaign e-mails are being opened on a mobile device, raising the bar to provide optimized site experiences for consumers who then click through.

As they develop their mobile chops, retailers are also investing in new and revamped functionality on smartphones and tablets, including product and price information, customer ratings and reviews, easy payment options and store information. By contrast, store maps and in-store navigation appear to be getting less investment focus at this stage — perhaps making them areas in which savvy retailers can stand out from the competition.

Despite all of these investments, most retailers still measure their mobile initiatives and investments using traditional e-commerce (i.e., direct sales) metrics like revenue transacted, site traffic, site conversion and average order value. Far fewer are tracking metrics that more accurately reflect mobile’s broader role in shopping and its influence on sales ultimately transacted elsewhere — for example, QR code downloads, product searches, mobile app downloads and repeat visits or log-ins. These latter metrics are an important gauge of the success of mobile devices as vehicles to service and segment customers, as well as to showcase products and further engage with customers.

To find more about research on mobile and many other topics related to e-commerce and multi-channel management, visit the blog at