Retailers remain prudent in their financial investments when it comes to mobile objectives, showing tempered future plans for spending on mobile and tablet initiatives despite the industry buzz. According to the 2012 Shop.org/Forrester Research Inc. State Of Retailing Online survey, 50 percent of retailers surveyed say they spent less than $100K on smartphone investments in 2011, and 74 percent spent the same on tablet initiatives. One year later, those numbers remain conservative, though companies are indicating a desire to grow their investments in tablet initiatives; on average retailers plan to invest $207K in 2012, compared to an average of $55K spent in 2011.
"It's easy to forget that mobile retailing is still in its infancy, and unlike what we saw with eCommerce ten short years ago, mobile is almost entirely consumer-driven," said Shop.org Executive Director Vicki Cantrell. "As mobile grows, so too will retailers' investments in technologies that make sense for their shopper, but to get to that level of commitment, retailers must first take smart, calculated steps to maximize the mobile shopping experience both now and in the future."
The survey did find, however, that more retailers have entered the playing field over the last year. In fiscal year 2011, 18 percent of those surveyed say their company made no investment in tablet initiatives and 14 percent say the same for smartphone initiatives; in 2012 only nine percent of companies say they will make no investments for tablet or smartphones.
As part of their mobile investments, and in addition to the consumer-facing technologies that retailers are leveraging, retailers are also focusing on in-store technologies such as mobile point-of-sale, and perfecting site optimization features for smartphone and tablet toting shoppers. According to the survey, 45 percent of companies have already or are planning to implement e-receipts in their stores in the next two years, and more than half (57 percent) say they have or will have mobile point-of-sale options for their stores within the next two years.
With the majority of retailers' web traffic coming from web browsers, even when a mobile app exists and is promoted, retailers are focusing on mobile site optimization features as a more cost-effective solution than building apps. Six in 10 (60 percent) companies surveyed say they have a special mobile site that is optimized for web browsers.
When asked what their company's greatest internal challenges are as they relate to deploying and managing their mobile initiatives, the answers run deep. Six in 10 (60 percent) say their business objectives for mobile initiatives are unclear and another four in 10 (40 percent) say a lack of experience in other areas such as designing for smartphone and tablet formats are presenting challenges. Additionally, 36 percent say obtaining adequate budget for mobile initiatives, including staff, is a top concern.
"While consumers are rapidly adopting smartphones and tablets, and there is no shortage of companies eager to provide mobile offerings to retailers," notes Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. "Retail executives are taking a measured view of the immediate benefits of these efforts — in part because of the myriad of challenges that must be considered when investing in mobile for their company."
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