Comment & Blogs
Date:29 March 2012
Matching the Mobile Momentum
Mobile has been discussed over the past few years as perhaps the number
one area of digital-commerce to watch, with commentators drawing
attention to its ubiquity, popularity and ever-expanding technical
capability which has led to a widespread belief that mobile internet
access could overtake desktop access by as early as 2015.
While its importance has been widely acknowledged, the development of
the mobile channel into a viable revenue generator for retailers in
general has actually been fairly slow to hit pace. With the exception of
a few brands, retailers were not seeing that uplift in sales through
the channel that seemed so inevitable.
However, this sluggish start now appears to have given way to a
sustained momentum for the channel. From the IMRG Capgemini Quarterly
Benchmarking Index, we’ve seen mobile sales rise from 0.4% of e-retail
sales to 5.3% over the space of just two years. That represents growth
of 1,320% for that period.
It is probably fair to say then that m-commerce has now begun its rise
to sales prominence in earnest. It is clear that the opportunity is too
great to be ignored, but what should retailers focus on in order to
ensure they are able to take advantage of it?
The initial question that needs to be addressed when implementing a
mobile solution is whether to focus on a mobile-optimised site or
develop an app. The answer of course depends upon the brand, its
specific customer profile and the nature of its offering. On the whole
though, when it comes to sales conversion rates, a mobile-optimised site
would appear to be the best choice.
Apps can be very useful for engagement and providing a good customer
experience, particularly with their capacity to utilise some of the more
advanced functionality of a mobile device. As a direct stream for
increasing revenue however, they are generally less potent. Many of the
retailers we have spoken to generate less than 1% of their sales through
If the primary aim of a mobile channel is to be transactional rather
than promotional, an optimised site seems to be the more appropriate
option. There is some logical sense to that conclusion, as many tablet
and smartphone users still like to browse around rather than stay within
a single app, so there is a tendency for these users to go straight to
their browser when shopping, which is and always will be a ‘browsing’
Put simply, a mobile site will reach more consumers. When developing
that site, relevance and usability should be key tenets of the design
and it is important to consider that the use of Flash and other
rendering tools may look engaging but, as with all digital channels,
compatibility issues should be at the forefront of any strategic
As with all things in retail, it is largely a matter of understanding
the customer and providing an offering appropriate to their needs.
Although the growth rate is very impressive, the actual percentage of
the total market that mobile accounts for is still relatively small.
Likewise, while it may be appropriate for a site to have an eye on
scalability in anticipation of that growth, the focus for the time-being
should probably be on presenting a solution that caters for the basics
Andrew McClelland, Chief Operations & Policy Officer, IMRG