Consumers are using smartphones and tablets to interact with retailers more than half of the time, according to a new report by Shop.org and comScore.
Analysts agree that retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. that embrace mobile e-commerce technology leveraged with in-store usage are apt to win favor in the hearts and wallets of consumers.
The researchers found that 55% of all retail related internet time originated on smartphones and tablet devices combined, compared with 45% originating from desktop devices. More specifically, smartphone internet usage in June totaled 44% of the retail internet minutes, jumping from the 17% in June 2010. Tablets accounted for 11% of the total minutes on retail sites this past June.
Shop.org said during the second quarter m-commerce dollars totaled $4.7 billion or 8.6% of the overall e-commerce sales. Between the second and third quarters of this year m-commerce grew 24%, compared to 16% in e-commerce overall.
"Since U.S. consumers now spend more than half of their time on retailers’ websites using their smartphones and tablets, mobile can’t be viewed simply as an ancillary device or action, it now epitomizes how consumers think and act when they interact with retailers,” said Shop.org Executive Director Vicki Cantrell.
She said retailers have to continue to invest to make sure they get their mobile offerings right, or will increasingly risk alienating customers and leaving significant money on the table.
When it comes to popular mobile content categories, retail was one of the fastest-growing areas among consumers. From June 2012 to June 2013, retail grew 49% as a content category on smartphones, only behind beauty and fashion, home and lifestyle, and instant messaging services.
Wal-Mart embraced the notion that mobile was for “for real” nearly two years ago and has continued to invest in technology and infrastructure as well the latest mobile devices made available to consumers at discounted prices.
Carol Spieckerman, CEO of New Market Builders, gives Wal-Mart a great deal of credit for the way it has embraced technology under the leadership of WalmartLabs. She said not only has the giant big box flexed its muscle with some key acquisitions in the mobile and e-commerce space, it is vested into helping usher in thousands of new users each year through the sale of technology devices at everyday low prices.
More than half of the 140 million consumers shopping Wal-Mart weekly and the 45 million shopping Walmart.com each month have a smartphone, according to Ravi Jariwala, spokesman for Walmart Global eCommerce.
In an e-mail, Jariwala said 30% of the Walmart.com traffic comes from mobile and the retailer expects that will increase this holiday season.
Neil Ashe, CEO of Walmart Global eCommerce, said in May that as millions of in-store shoppers have smart phones integrating mobile with brick and mortar and linking it to e-commerce is paramount in helping the retailer reach its audacious goals of selling everything to everyone.
Ahead of last year’s holiday, Wal-Mart invested in GPS geofencing around all of its U.S. stores so it could offer more applications that provide consumers with “Scan & Go” options as well as an “in-store” mode that tracks shopper behavior. The app also can help shoppers compare prices, find merchandise, order online and in the not-to-distant future create shopping lists based on previous shopping trips. Jariwala said customers with the Wal-Mart app make twice the number of shopping trips and spend up to 40% more each month.
The Shop.org research found that many online consumers use their smartphone while in-store.
“Mobile is having a profound effect on how people engage with the retail experience today,” said Lynée Alves, director of retail solutions at comScore. “Not only are consumers using their mobile devices to engage more with retail sites and apps, they are also beginning to transact on these devices in a meaningful way. The m-commerce revolution is building momentum, and retailers must adapt to this new landscape if they are to succeed in this emerging channel.”
In the second quarter report 57% of smartphone users visited the same company’s site or app while in the store, compared to 43% who consulted another company’s site or app. The top reason consumers consulted the retailer’s or another company’s website or app was to view price differences.
“Retailers have an immediate opportunity to proactively encourage shoppers to use in-store Wi-Fi and engage with the retailer’s mobile-enabled websites and apps,” said Peter Leech, Managing Director of The Partnering Group.
“It’s a big opportunity to capture those eyeballs before they seek an alternate source of product detail and pricing information on another retailer’s mobile offering,” he said.
The research indicates roughly 60% of consumers who went to the same retailer’s site wanted to know if there was an online discount available. Roughly 92% of the in-store shopper who visited other retailer websites were price checking as well.
Retailers like Wal-Mart with in-store modes can send coupons to shoppers automatically if they see them shopping for a particular item elsewhere.
Smartphones are also being used as cameras to take photos of items in-store, text or call friends about a particular item or send a photo of item to a friend. In addition, consumers use their smartphones to locate stores, find coupons and other deals or look up product availability.
Interaction with retailers through mobile devices is definitely on the rise, but the majority of online sales still come from desktop or tablet devices. In the second quarter 21% of sales were made from a smartphone, according to comScore. Apparel and accessories (37%) and event tickets (25%) were among the top products that smartphone shoppers bought with their device during second quarter, researchers said.