In an effort to better serve multi-touchpoint, always-on, and empowered consumers, a growing number of retailers are experimenting with mobile and social initiatives — some that are paying immediate dividends and some that are still in the speculative phase. According to “The State Of Retailing Online 2011: Marketing, Social, and Mobile” report conducted by Forrester Research Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR) for Shop.org, 91 percent of retailers currently have a mobile strategy in place or in development (up from 74 percent a year ago). Additionally, 72 percent of retailers say they will increase their spending on social networks this year over last year. “The State Of Retailing Online" research series, which provides eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals with annual industry benchmarks of marketing and business investment and activities, surveyed 68 companies.
Retailers report that 21 percent of all mobile traffic is coming from tablets, amazing considering the iPad was launched barely a year ago. Still, the overall amount of mobile traffic and revenue has not increased dramatically, suggesting that investment levels in site optimization may still be inadequate. For example, 48 percent of retailers report having a mobile-optimized website; 35 percent have deployed an iPhone app; and 15 percent offer an Android app and an iPad app, respectively. Challenges for retailers include differentiating the consumer experience on a tablet versus a smartphone and figuring out features and functionality in dueling app/mobile Web ecosystems.
“After spending the last few years learning how to capitalize on social media and new mobile technologies, one of retailers’ main focuses right now seems to be leveraging the tremendous popularity of tablet devices, such as the iPad,” said Shop.org Head of Research Fiona Swerdlow. “As sales channels continue to blur in retail, companies are creating mobile apps that make their brands seem current, entertaining, or fun, while at the same time creating a unique opportunity to connect with more shoppers than ever before.”
Compared with past years, social networks surfaced higher as an investment area among retailers. Social networks ranked fourth on the list of successful customer acquisition sources, up significantly from last year. Yet the ROI associated with social is muddy: 62 percent of retailers said the returns on social marketing strategies are unclear, and nearly the same percentage said the primary ROI from social marketing is listening to — and gaining a better understanding of — customers.
“The data indicates that significant investments in social and mobile tactics will be in place this year,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president, principal analyst, Forrester Research. “Retail executives should have modest expectations for the benefits of social commerce. With regard to mobile, retailers should be working to increasingly integrate features and functionality into the physical store experience. While consumers may not be extensively exploring product information yet, basic store information, transparent pricing, and easy checkout capabilities are likely to be the most pressing opportunities for most sites in the near term.”