Mobile Web Brings Increased Sales for Retailers

David Murphy

Retailers are seeing increased sales, higher customer engagement and reduced service costs from the mobile internet. Yet despite this, two thirds of retailers have not yet optimised their sites for mobile, according to new research from mobile marketing firm Sponge.

Sponge surveyed 136 retailers in June and July. Of those that had dedicated mobile sites, 39 per cent of retailers cited the key benefit as ‘”sales from a new channel”. Two thirds said their mobile sites enabled them to receive positive feedback from customers able to interact with their brand wherever they were. 28 per cent had reduced the need for support or call centre staff.

When asked how they used their mobile sites, 48 per cent said they allow customers to make transactions, while 40 per cent display products. 52 per cent use mobile sites to support brand and customer communications programmes, and 28 per cent use them for customer service purposes.
83% claimed results met or exceeded expectations.

Almost a quarter of those who hadn’t optimised their websites for the mobile internet said they were considering doing so within the next six months. However, a further 16 per cent said they had no plans to do so, with cost and the lack of evidence of return cited as the main reasons.

40 per cent of the retailers surveyed had not used mobile in any way, but 63 per cent of these said they were considering using it within the next 12 months. Of those that had used mobile in some form, the majority (57 per cent) did so primarily to contact customers with text messages to inform them of delivery times, stock alerts and special offers.

Mobile was seen as important or essential for communicating with customers by two thirds of the total sample, while 69 per cent felt the same way about using mobile to extend their brand or marketing activity.

When asked what part mobile will play in retail in a year’s time, 38 per cent of the overall sample stated that mobile would be integral to the online retail purchase process, with 68 per cent saying that most retailers will adopt at least one use of mobile.

"Retailers clearly understand the potential of the channel, but a significant number aren't exploiting it in any joined-up fashion,” says Alex Meisl, co-founder and chairman of Sponge. “Although many brands are seeing benefits, such as through the interactive capabilities of an app or mobile internet site, a wider mobile strategy could bring huge benefits, helping to streamline the retailer’s business and provide a better customer experience.”
The survey also revealed that almost a third of retailers have built a mobile app, with 55 per cent saying they developed their app as a brand-building tool. 50 per cent of apps offered customers transactional capabilities, while 42 per cent were focused around community building.

Just over a fifth of retailers had built an app because they didn’t want to get left behind by competitors, while a further fifth felt that launching an app gave them the opportunity to be the first to do so in their sector. Of the 68 per cent who don’t have an app, 88 per cent are considering building one within the next two years.

Sponge’s survey also looked at retailers’ use of mobile in marketing and advertising campaigns. 35 per cent said they had used mobile as a direct response channel for their traditional marketing campaigns, typically using an SMS shortcode on print ads or TV commercials. 50 per cent of these had used it on print promotions, with a further 50 per cent using mobile in point of sale and in-store activity. A third had used mobile shortcodes in outdoor advertising campaigns.

A third of multichannel retailers questioned had used mobile coupons, discounts and offers to drive store footfall, while a quarter of pureplay online retailers had done the same to drive people to their websites.