Retailers Without Optimized Mobile Experience Will Lose Sales

A recent AP story on "mobile shopping" carried the headline "Mobile shopping: More buzz than buy so far." It lamented the fact more consumers weren't buying through their smartphones and identified various challenges facing "m-commerce." But the notion that there's some sort of inevitable progression from where we are to billions in mobile buying is simply mistaken.

Consumers are already aggressively using mobile phones at home and in stores. (Tablets are a separate conversation.) And new data from InsightExpress about anticipated holiday shopping patterns reinforces the idea that mobile is already a critical part of the shopping experience.

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The following chart shows one of the more interesting findings of the InsightExpress survey: majorities of people will go to their smartphones before store sales staff. This ought to shock retailers and convey to them that they better have optimized mobile sites and all kinds of product information and content on their sites or they'll potentially lose the sale.
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The InsightExpress data also reflect barriers to mobile commerce. Overall a poor user experience, combined with security fears, blocks people from buying on their phones. These problems are unlikely to be resolved in the near term -- unless you've got a gigantic smartphone (e.g., the new Samsung Note) or a connected 7-inch tablet in the store. Regardless, overcoming the security fears will take time.

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Notwithstanding these problems a high percentage of people are willing to consider making purchases over their smartphones (men more than women). 

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Meanwhile new data from the e-Tailing Group (sponsored by PowerReviews) also shows how people use mobile devices to shop (at home) and while in stores. The first graph below is general use (any location) of smartphones. The second one specifically reflects answers to a question about in-store smartpthone usage.

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What's interesting is that the two charts above are similar but not identical, which means people are doing very specific things in stores vs. at home or work on their smartphones. Here's the top-actions list from the in-stores usage question:

  1. Coupons
  2. Pricing comparisons (on Amazon and beyond)
  3. Reviews
  4. Barcode scanning
  5. Additional inventory information  

Retailers must be conscious that consumers are using smartphones everywhere to get information about stores, prices and products. They need to have well-designed, mobile-optimized sites and be conscious that their best customers are going to be mobile customers as well. Failure to immediately take action to develop an optimized mobile experience for customers will, again, result in lost sales.