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.


  1. I love that people are shopping from their phones! I find it truly amazing how mobile has changed everything!

  2. My Mom is a big time mobile shopper. She found an app that fits her shopping habits perfectly and its just too easy. I think that as people become more savvy and web sites are better at accommodating shoppers, the mobile shopping will continue to increase.

  3. I would use the mobile platform more if my eyes were better. I find it difficult to navigate store websites, so I mostly use apps to shop.

  4. Good job Mobile man!.

    Such a huge explosion of mobile... everything. I find it interesting that we have gone from desktop to laptop to smaller smart phones. We are now seeing larger and larger smart phones and even tablets. Wonder where technology will take us next year?

  5. The interesting move here would be to offer tools that supplement the in-store experience from a mobile device. The ability to compare product specifications between different brands could be huge for consumers, and it could help reduce staffing overhead from floor workers who would otherwise need to answer customer questions.

    It's the next logical step past Kohl's electronic product and pricing labels and it could make things very interesting for stores as they try to compete with online shopping.

  6. Augmented reality? I would love to see what would happen when stores use their physical layout in new ways, connecting the digital device within the store, navigating the store experience using their device. Treasure hunts for deals, and geo caching customer experiences with products.

    I was unfamiliar with 'showrooming', but had done this quite a number of times. Always nice to see and feel a product before pulling the trigger and buying it online.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. I work in Product Management for eCommerce Software. Over the past few years, it has been VERY apparent that, if we lose in mobile, we lose in desktop AND in store. Mobile browsing has become a necessity for customers. It may not bring in the lion's share of revenue, but mobile shopping is one of the cornerstones of retail.

  9. Nice article. I wonder how much of online sales are conducted using mobile devices.

  10. I'm a mobile shopping junkie! I'm glad that apps are being created specifically for the mobile shopping space as this helps make things easier t o buy. It's interesting to see the growth in the mobile space. Also like to add, that huge infographic is awesome!

  11. Nice post. Mobile apps have come along way and will only get better.