In a challenging economy, mobile shopping has provided a bright spot for the retail industry. A 2012 survey by Prosper Mobile Insights found that 25% of consumers use a mobile device to shop online, an activity also known as m-commerce.
Amazon.com is the undisputed leader in the arena and was projected to hit $2 billion in m-commerce sales in 2011, more than doubling its 2010 revenue, according to a report by Internet Retailer.
“We need to make it really easy and fast for customers to find what they want, so we’ve focused a lot on minimizing input—bar code scanning, search suggestions, voice input—so customers can go from 'I want that' to 'I bought that' in under 30 seconds,” Amazon Mobile director Sam Hall said at the time.
Numerous studies have shown mobile commerce gaining a larger slice of the e-commerce pie – a 2011 report by Forrester projected annual growth of 40% for mobile commerce through 2016, by which time it would total $31 billion.
Even with that rate of growth, however, mobile commerce would account for only about 7% of web sales. That means there’s still massive potential for retailers.
About half of cell phone owners used their device to research or price items while they were in a store over the 2011 holiday shopping season, a Pew Internet report found.
Like Amazon.com, other major retailers are attempting to make the mobile shopping experience easier for consumers, in part by developing mobile marketing strategies.
Walmart has upgraded its apps to help shoppers locate products and create shopping lists. The retail giant also is part of a consortium of companies formed in 2012 with the goal of making it easier for customers to pay for purchases with their smartphones.
Retailers also are turning to cutting-edge virtual technology to entice customers. For example, grocery chains Tesco and Peapod have programs that display virtual grocery aisles in subway stations, allowing commuters to scan items for purchase and delivery using their smartphones and Quick Response (QR) codes.
Augmented Reality, which mixes the real world with computer-generated input, also could find a foothold in the retail industry. For example, the technology has been used to create a digital cosmetic mirror that allows customers to compare and test various makeups by virtually applying the product to their face.
In 2012, Facebook announced its acquisition of Karma, a startup company that developed a smartphone app for gift giving. The app connects with the social media network to gather information about the user’s Facebook friends, including their birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones. Karma then recommends gifts from its catalog, contacts the intended recipient via Facebook, text or email and arranges delivery.
Mobile technology is advancing at warp speed, and retailers will need to keep pace by developing mobile marketing strategies that are robust and consumer-friendly.
“As smartphone adoption in the U.S. continues to skyrocket, consumers are more informed than ever before,” noted a September 2012 study by the mobile marketing company Vibes. “Instant access to product comparisons, prices and reviews – all while standing in store aisles – positions shoppers to be in true control of their purchase decisions.