With the holiday season fast approaching, there has been a significant amount of press coverage regarding the role mobile devices will play in driving retail sales this season. The consensus is that mobile devices are changing the shopping landscape, and that the 2011 holiday season will be the tipping point — the year that consumers widely integrate mobile devices into their shopping routine. “This November holiday season will mark the true advent of the post-PC era with consumers demonstrating a heightened interest in adding mobile devices to their holiday shopping arsenal,” noted IBM’s John Squire, in response to an IBM Coremetrics Benchmark analysis showing that 15% of people in the United States accessing a retailer’s website are expected to do so via mobile devices.
What does this mean for the retail community? Are shoppers going to be bypassing in-store shopping in favor of online mobile purchasing? In consulting engagements with large consumer packaged goods companies and retailers, we are seeing concern that mobile commerce (m-commerce) will diminish in-store traffic, as shoppers abandon stores in favor of phone and iPad purchasing. This is a valid fear, as m-commerce is a second channel (in addition to PC-based ecommerce) which allows shoppers to purchase without walking the aisles.
But not so fast. Based upon multiple indicators, including in-depth interviews with drug, grocery and big-box retailers conducted for a recent whitepaper on mobile marketing and the retail channel, we have every reason to believe that mobile devices will actually DRIVE foot traffic for those retailers who choose to participate in the mobile revolution. It’s counterintuitive, maybe, but consider this — by-and-large, shoppers aren’t using mobile devices to make purchases. Shoppers are using mobile devices to gather information, compare prices and make decisions, and this oftentimes takes place in the aisle of a store.
According to a recent PriceGrabber survey, just 4% of 2,322 consumers interviewed regarding their holiday shopping plans stated that they would make purchases via mobile devices, up from 3% last year. While mobile apps are making it easier for shoppers to buy via mobile devices, shoppers aren’t yet making the switch to mobile purchasing. For brick-and-mortar retailers, this is good news. There is a real opportunity for retailers to develop innovative mobile strategies, resulting in increased customer loyalty and “traction” among consumers. The investment in mobile will pay benefits all year long, not just during the shopping season.
How, then, does mobile drive traffic to stores? What is yielding results? Via interviews with retailers, we’ve identified key tactics that are being used to increase store visits.
The 2011-2012 time frame is a golden opportunity to implement a mobile strategy to increase foot traffic. Retailers acting quickly will help shape the m-commerce landscape, and will be well-positioned as smartphone and tablet adoption increases and technology improves. As the New Year approaches, ask yourself what you are doing to win shoppers via this channel. By developing a mobile communication strategy with consumers now, retailers can grow shopper loyalty and traction, increase mindshare and drive sales.
Moira Koch is a VP at Maia Strategy Group, where she leads consumer packaged goods engagements with an emphasis on retail insights. Prior to joining Maia Strategy Group, she was responsible for developing and launching Bluebeards Original, a premium line of Men’s beard care products sold in retail stores nationwide. Her latest whitepaper “How Mobile Technology is Changing the Retail Environment” is available here.