Shopping on Smartphones

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According to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, sales completed on mobile devices has increased by a staggering 57% since June. This includes smartphones and tablets, although shoppers are twice as likely to use their smartphone than a tablet. While the study does not specify whether these are in-store online purchases conducted with the help of a sales associate (an increasingly popular retail tactic) or shopping done by pajama-clad consumers from their couch, the Index findings certainly speak to the impact of mobile devices on business.

What does the changing market mean for retailers today? For one, it means that an online presence is key. Nearly half of U.S. shoppers own a smartphone. If over 50% of those smartphone owners have conducted a transaction online, which is the case according to eDigital Research, retailers can’t afford to remain solely brick-and-mortar. The recent sale-by-smartphone increase is partly due to companies developing their own mobile apps, which became popular about two years ago. By investing in smartphone applications, retailers are spending a small amount of money on something that makes a big difference. Not only are they keeping up with their clientele’s shifting lifestyle, but with their apps they also offer customizable options to cater to individual shoppers. With their own accounts, consumers can keep wish lists of their favorite items. Because the app is right on their phone, they are easily notified about promotions and new products.

Apigee says that retailers who don’t adapt will likely be left behind, as it is more than likely that their competitors have already joined the mobile trend. EBay sees 43% of its online traffic via mobile devices, Amazon 34%, and Target 22%.  In fact, 90% of shoppers expect department stores to have a mobile application within the next year. Based on the 57% sale-by-smartphone increase over the last month, consumers aren’t going to be disappointed.

Still, these impressive numbers don’t mean that retailers should abandon their physical stores. The Index revealed that multichannel retailers experience 21% year-by-year growth, compared to the smaller 13% rate of online-only ones. One cannot underestimate the benefits of human interaction on store loyalty and sales. Consumers value their connection with their retailers and appreciate when associates are able to answer questions and give advice. There is only so much preliminary product research a consumer can conduct online (which 47% of them always do, according to Interactions Marketing’s study). Besides, anyone who works in retail can tell you the one thing they know for sure: customers absolutely love touching the things they want to buy. They want to try the shirt on, click the camera button and sit in the driver’s seat. But, who can blame them?

Basically, it seems that retailers need to be everywhere – in store and online, with both computer and mobile options – to maximize sales and please loyal customers. On the bright side, consumers will reap all the customizable customer service benefits.

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