Study Shows Retailers Increasing Mobile, Social Efforts

Ninety one percent of retailers have a mobile strategy in place or in development, up form 74 perent a year ago, and 72 percent of retailers say they will increase spending on social networks this year, according to a new study “The State of Retailing Online 2011: Marketing, Social, and Mobile,” which was conducted by Forrester Research Inc. for Shop.org. The study gathered information from 68 companies. More information follows:

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Mobile

Retailers report that 21 percent of all mobile traffic is coming from tablets, amazing considering the iPad was launched barely a year ago. Still, the overall amount of mobile traffic and revenue has not increased dramatically, suggesting that investment levels in site optimization may still be inadequate. For example, 48 percent of retailers report having a mobile-optimized website; 35 percent have deployed an iPhone app; and 15 percent offer an Android app and an iPad app, respectively. Challenges for retailers include differentiating the consumer experience on a tablet versus a smartphone and figuring out features and functionality in dueling app/mobile Web ecosystems.

“After spending the last few years learning how to capitalize on social media and new mobile technologies, one of retailers’ main focuses right now seems to be leveraging the tremendous popularity of tablet devices, such as the iPad,” said Shop.org Head of Research Fiona Swerdlow. “As sales channels continue to blur in retail, companies are creating mobile apps that make their brands seem current, entertaining, or fun, while at the same time creating a unique opportunity to connect with more shoppers than ever before.”

Social

Compared with past years, social networks surfaced higher as an investment area among retailers. Social networks ranked fourth on the list of successful customer acquisition sources, up significantly from last year. Yet the ROI associated with social is muddy: 62 percent of retailers said the returns on social marketing strategies are unclear, and nearly the same percentage said the primary ROI from social marketing is listening to – and gaining a better understanding of – customers.

“The data indicates that significant investments in social and mobile tactics will be in place this year,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president, principal analyst, Forrester Research. “Retail executives should have modest expectations for the benefits of social commerce. With regard to mobile, retailers should be working to increasingly integrate features and functionality into the physical store experience. While consumers may not be extensively exploring product information yet, basic store information, transparent pricing, and easy checkout capabilities are likely to be the most pressing opportunities for most sites in the near term.”

Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation, is the world’s leading membership community for digital retail. Founded in 1996, Shop.org’s 600 members include the 10 largest retailers in the US and more than 60 percent of the Internet Retailer Top 100 E-Retailers.