Adapting for mobile shopping
If merchants aren't actively pursuing mobile commerce, they are leaving precious sales on the table. Consumers are increasingly using their smartphones and tablets for everything from researching products to making the final purchase, and retailers need to respond to this paradigm shift by embracing these devices just like their target audiences. Unfortunately, few retailers are adequately prepared across the board for this new means of digital shopping.
"Across retail there is a real problem when it comes to mobile," Vince Russell, managing director of high street Wi-Fi provider The Cloud, told Retail Week. "A lot of retailers still don't even have a website optimized for mobile platforms. They are effectively just throwing sales away."
In the United States and across many developed economies throughout the world, smartphone penetration has seen a sharp uptick. For example, the most recent reports from comScore found that 60 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers own smartphones, while that number is closer to half in the U.K., according to a separate report from the European Travel Commission's New Media Trend Watch.
With many consumer electronics manufacturers looking to produce less expensive smartphones in the near future, market penetration is extremely likely to grow.
One report from Juniper suggests low-cost smartphones will take over the market, with shipments of 200 million forecast for 2018 – a significant leap over the 10 million budget smartphones expected to ship in 2014.
Enhancing retail operations for smartphones
Although many business owners are well aware of the rise of mobile devices, some retailers aren't making their online presence as mobile-friendly as they could. Some eCommerce websites may take seconds to load over slower 3G networks, while others may not be optimized for the smaller screens.
Mobile optimization is only one step, and if retailers truly want support mobile eCommerce, they should also look toward integrating the experience fully with smartphones and tablets. For example, merchants could launch apps with store locators or daily coupon deals. They could also use eCommerce software to help consolidate order information across channels, allowing them to put items on hold in-store via their smartphones.
As smartphones continue to hit critical mass, savvy merchants must be able to capitalize on the trend by integrating their Web, mobile and brick-and-mortar units into a cohesive shopping experience.