Mobile retail efforts should address each stage of purchase funnel: eMarketer

Currently, retailers are using SMS alerts, coupons, product ratings and reviews, store locators, bar codes, location-based apps and social media feeds available at each stage of the purchase funnel. According to eMarketer research, the surge in mobile shopping is driven by the increasing penetration of smartphones, which represented 26 percent of phone owners in December.

“What I found with talking to various experts and retailers is that more people have smartphones and, as smartphone penetration increases, the landscape has changed because people are using the phone as an extension of the self and using it in-store for Web access and apps,” said Tobi Elkin, writer/analyst at eMarketer, New York.

“Retailers need to have some sort of presence in mobile,” she said. “Right now there is this huge apples-or-oranges debate about whether a mobile presence means a mobile Web site or an app, but really it just needs to be something.

“Retailers need to think of their mobile presence as the first stop in the consumer research process.”

According to eMarketer, savvy retailers are already working hard to integrate social media and location-based apps with mobile tactics to aid consumer decision-making.

Although many retailers are ahead of the game and have a mobile strategy in place, for some mobile is still a work in progress, per eMarketer.

Among United States retailers polled in the fall of 2010, 60.7 percent reported planning to beef up their existing mobile Web presence or launch an app.

The 2010 holiday season was the really a turning point for mobile’s role in the retail strategy.

Data from InsightExpress shows that during that time period, smartphone owners used their devices to receive sale alerts, look for better prices and product reviews and redeem coupons.

“I found that the multichannel retailers who have tried various mobile tactics and figured out what works claim a mobile Web site is a must-have,” Ms. Elkin said. “The opportunity is huge for mobile commerce.

“Overall, mcommerce is going to be huge once the payment infrastructure is settled upon,” she said. “The smartphone will become the digital wallet.

“Once the security concerns are ironed out, the smartphone is going to become the debit card.”