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Survey: Retailers focusing on mobile site optimization and in-store technologies

DENVER, Colo. — Retailers remain conservative when it comes to financial investments in mobile and tablet initiatives despite the industry buzz, according to a survey by Shop.org and Forrester Research.

In the "2012 State Of Retailing Online" survey, 50% of the retailers surveyed said they spent less than $100,000 on smartphone investments in 2011, and 74% spent the same on tablet initiatives. One year later, the numbers remain conservative, but companies are increasing their investments: On average retailers plan to invest $207,000 in 2012, compared with an average of $55,000 spent in 2011.

"It's easy to forget that mobile retailing is still in its infancy, and unlike what we saw with e-commerce 10 short years ago, mobile is almost entirely consumer-driven," Shop.org executive director Vicki Cantrell said. "As mobile grows, so too will retailers' investments in technologies that make sense for their shopper, but to get to that level of commitment, retailers must first take smart, calculated steps to maximize the mobile shopping experience both now and in the future."

The survey also found that more retailers have entered the playing field over the last year. In fiscal year 2011, 18% of those surveyed said their company made no investment in tablet initiatives and 14% said the same for smartphone initiatives. In 2012 only 9% of companies said they will make no investments for tablet or smartphones.

The report finds that, as part of their mobile investments, retailers also are focusing on in-store technologies, such as mobile point-of-sale and perfecting site optimization features for smartphone- and tablet-touting shoppers. According to the survey, 45% of companies already have or are planning to implement e-receipts in their stores in the next two years, and 57% said they have or will have mobile point-of-sale options for their stores within the next two years.

With the majority of retailers' Web traffic coming from Web browsers, even when a mobile app exists and is promoted, retailers are focusing on mobile site optimization features as a more cost-effective solution than building apps. Six-in-10 (60%) companies surveyed said they have a special mobile site that is optimized for Web browsers.

When asked what their company's greatest internal challenges are as they relate to deploying and managing their mobile initiatives, the answers run deep. Six-in-10 (60%) said their business objectives for mobile initiatives are unclear and another 4-in-10 (40%) said a lack of experience in other areas such as designing for smartphone and tablet formats are presenting challenges.

Additionally, 36% said obtaining adequate budget for mobile initiatives, including staff, is a top concern.

"While consumers are rapidly adopting smartphones and tablets, and there is no shortage of companies eager to provide mobile offerings to retailers," Forrester Research VP and principal analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said. "Retail executives are taking a measured view of the immediate benefits of these efforts — in part because of the myriad of challenges that must be considered when investing in mobile for their company."

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