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Mobile retail dollars doubled between April and December: study

The share of online retail dollars attributable to mobile devices in the United States doubled from 1.87 percent in April to 3.74 percent in December, according to a new report from RichRelevance.

The 2011 holiday season has seen significant increases in consumers using mobile to interact with stores, a trend that RichRelevance expects will continue next year. However, despite the significant growth, mobile is still a small percentage of overall sales for retailers, accounting for just over 3 percent of total sales.

“Our findings show a steady growth in mobile usage over a nine month period, so this is not a holiday phenomenon – it’s how people shop,” said David Selinger, CEO of RichRelevance, San Francisco.

“The blurring of physical and digital shopping will continue: that means some shoppers are standing in physical stores while checking other stores and products on a mobile device; other shoppers are at home, perhaps checking a product after seeing an ad on television,” he said.

“That means that retailers need to think and rethink how they service shoppers across all channels because from the shopper’s point-of-view, it is one seamless interaction.”

IOS shoppers
Apple’s iOS operating system was a significant contributor in terms of enabling consumers shopping via mobile devices.

Apple mobile devices accounted for the bulk of all online non-desktop sales, with just over 92 percent of the sales originated from an iPad or an iOS-enabled device in December 2011, up from 88 percent in April.

Apple mobile devices also have a larger average order value compared to other mobile platforms at $123 for Apple versus $101 for Android in December 2011.

In April, desktop and mobile-originated online average order sales were neck-and-neck at $149 and $153, respectively. By mid-December, mobile AOV averaged $120 compared with desktop orders, which slid to $110.

“While viewing is more common than purchasing, average order value (AOV) on mobile devices is very, very healthy,” Mr. Selinger said. “So that indicates that on the one hand many more shoppers are viewing items on mobile devices than executing a purchase.

“It could be that they’re primarily comparing products (e.g. in a store), or that the ease-of-purchase on a mobile device isn’t as good as it should be—maybe there’s an inconvenience that we don’t understand yet—like people not wanting to enter credit card data on a bus or train or in a coffee shop,” he said. “But there’s an implicit opportunity to convert mobile viewers into buyers.

“On the other hand, among shoppers who do buy, the AOV is very high, on a par with desktop AOV, if not higher. So that tells us that mobile purchasing is not merely impulsive, but that It’s considered.”

In addition to the jump in mobile sales, RichRelevance also tracked a significant increase in mobile traffic as a share of commerce page views, with 18 percent of shopping sessions occurring on mobile devices. In April, just under 9 percent of all shoppers were browsing digital aisles via a mobile device.

Thanksgiving takes the prize for the highest share of online traffic coming from mobile at 24 percent during the holiday period.

In general, weekends and holidays proved to be strong mobile shopping times. For the six week period from Nov 1 to Dec 18 on average 14 percent of shoppers were on mobile devices. On both Saturday and Sunday, 17 percent of the browsers were on mobile devices.

The study is based on more than 3.4 billion online shopping sessions, which took place between April 1 and Dec. 18, 2011 on the Web sites of U.S. online retailers, including 10 of the 25 largest retailers on the Web.

In order to succeed in the mobile space, retailers and brands should address relevance to insure a seamless experience.

“I think shoppers are a bit ahead of retailers at this point —they are turning to mobile devices faster than retailers are crafting the mobile experience, faster than they can understand all the nuances of how this mode of shopping is part of the customer’s interaction with the brands and the stores,” Mr. Selinger said.

To address, retailers need to analyze mobile shopping behavior, enhance mobile experiences to meet consumer expectations and break down any barriers that exist between channels.

“Retailers need to think holistically about mobile — it’s not just another channel but it’s part of a seamless experiential opportunity they have to create stickiness and loyalty with shoppers — so they can rely on a consistent experience whether on the mobile site or the primary store site,” Mr. Selinger said.

“If mobile shopping continues at the same rate of growth we’ve seen in the last three quarters, then we can expect at least 10 percent of all online retail revenue to come directly from mobile devices by this time next year,” he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York