Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Mobile Impact

Mobile’s Impact on Retail

We all know how fast the mobile device industry has grown. 82.2 million Americans own a smartphone… and I bet you are one of them. The mobile industry has been blessed with the coveted title of ‘The Next Big Thing’. As with any change, ‘The Next Big Thing’ is bound to disrupt other industries, and no industry is more keenly aware of this than retail. Mobile devices open an entirely new channel for shopping, but how will this affect traditional e-commerce? How will this affect ultra-orthodox-traditional-old-school- brick-and-mortar stores?

The Rise of Mobile Commerce

One thing is for certain: mobile sales are growing fast.  In 2012, mobiles sales accounted for 16% of all online sales, up from 9.8% in 2011. Furthermore, 24% of shoppers used a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site last Thanksgiving and Black Friday, up from 14.3% in 2011[i].  Ok, so statistics like these might get a little boring. Luckily, BrandingBrand, a mobile commerce platform used by major retailers, illustrates this point loud and clear in this infographic:


52% of adult cell phone users report using their phones while in a store to assist with purchasing decisions. [iii] Often, customers are simply looking for more information and reviews regarding a specific product, but finding better pricing is a growing concern among retailers. Showrooming has now taken center stage in the brick-and-mortar battle against mobile devices.  For those unfamiliar with the term, showrooming occurs when consumers examine merchandise in a physical retail store, then shop online to find best prices. This practice has grown increasingly popular as smartphones allow consumers to shop for prices at the same time they examine the merchandise.

Target has made some big moves in response to showrooming by offering some products exclusive to their stores. Target has also instituted a price-matching policy, offering to match any prices of other large retailers, both online and physical stores.

So What?

While mobile commerce currently represents just a small chunk of total retail sales, it is clear that it will become a major force in the future of shopping. While it is difficult to analyze just how much mobile shopping is impacting physical retail stores, we do know that showrooming has become a prevalent practice among consumers. Mobile visits to websites are also growing extremely rapidly, highlighting the importance for ecommerce sites to optimize their platforms for positive mobile shopping experience.  

Will this be the end of brick-and-mortar? I doubt it.  Nor will it be the end of traditional e-commerce.  However, in order for companies to remain competitive in the changing landscape of retail, they will need to find effective solutions for utilizing mobile devices for their benefit.