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Less than one-third of retailers offer tablet-optimized mobile sites: study

Less than one-third of the top 100 retailers have a tablet-optimized mobile site, pointing to the growing tablet market and challenges that retailers are facing when creating mobile initiatives, according to a new study from Zmags.

The Zmags “Mobile and tablet ecommerce: Is anyone really ready?” survey took a look at how retailers are preparing their mobile strategies and which ones are making the cut. The study also presented a few best tips to help retailers get their mobile efforts in shape for 2012.

“2012 is the year that retailers must clarify and execute their tablet strategy before their competitors do,” said Sean Ford, chief marketing officer at Zmags, Boston.

“Delivering an adequate-enough experience is shortsighted,” he said. “Retailers need to craft unique, tablet-optimized shopping experiences that will stimulate consumer engagement and drive great profit potential.”

Shopping list 
The research was conducted from November to December and surveyed 100 top retailers. Zmags worked with consulting and research firm HawkPartners to put the study together.

Each retailer was surveyed in four main areas – product discovery, usability, cross-platform brand experience and optimization.

Retailers were also surveyed based on if their mobile efforts were commerce-enabled, showing the increased sophistication and standards that retailers have established via mobile.

Gilt Groupe, Disney and Urban Outfitters topped the list as the strongest retailers that are driving sales on mobile platforms overall.

Fifty-nine percent of the retailers included in the study had mobile Web sites, however the majority were optimized for smartphones versus tablets, showing how tablets are just now being recognized as catalysts to driving sales.

Nike was the only retailer that the study thought had a well-executed mobile site for tablets. For retailers who have shifted their business model for more ecommerce, the study is proof that brands need to step up their game for tablet-specific initiatives.

When it comes to smartphone apps, more retailers are embracing mobile. Sixty-eight percent of the retailers surveyed have developed smartphone apps.

Fifty percent of the retailers in the study have both smartphone apps and mobile sites.

Of the retail smartphone apps, more than two-thirds of them are available for iPhone devices. However, only 50 percent of the retail iPhone apps offer commerce-enabled options, showing how mobile apps are split between showcasing products and letting consumers buy directly via mobile.

Forty percent of retailers in the study have iPad apps, but only 25 percent of the apps are shoppable. Based on data that consumers are using their devices to shop, more retailers should be offering commerce functions in their apps.

For example, the study points to a finding from eMarketer that predicts mobile commerce sales will grow to $31 billion in 2015, marking a four-fold increase from 2011.

Saks Fifth Avenue was one of the few retailers that has commerce-enabled apps. To compare, Ralph Lauren educates consumers about its products inside the app but directs them to the retailer’s mobile site to buy things.

More than one-third of Android apps from retailers offer consumers a way to shop.

“Given that the iPhone has a two-year jumpstart on the iPad, it is understandable that retailers gravitated to smartphone apps as a first iteration of mobile commerce,” Mr. Ford said.

“But the iPad launch in 2010 presented retailers with an exciting and critical opportunity to re-strategize the commerce experience,” he said.

“However, most retailers have not found a clear path to a tablet strategy, as evidenced by the widely varied approaches we see in this report.”

Tabbed features
Nineteen out of the top 100 retailers in the study included more interactive features such as look books, catalogs and rich media in their mobile efforts, showing how although mobile commerce is gaining traction, retailers are using simplified, straight-forward initiatives that do not try to replicate the shopping experience.

To determine how retailer’s tablet sites stacked up, the survey used a few key features that work specifically well on tablets including video, swipeable galleries and content that fits on the page.

For best practice tips, Zmags encouraged retailers to slim down the content on their tablet efforts, both with apps and sites. In particular, navigation needs to be displayed to mimic what a user would be using a tablet to do with buying and product research.

Since iPads continue to dominate the tablet market, smart retailers should build video without Flash so that content loads correctly on Apple devices.

Additionally, options such as color, size and shipping address should be easily accessible via the site for quick shopping.

“These are exciting times for ecommerce, and there is definitely a transition in process away from the directed-search approach that we associate with the traditional ecommerce model and towards leveraging the tablet’s unique interface to create shopping experiences that are rooted in discovery and inspiration,” Mr. Ford said.

“At this point in the game, retailers should be going all in with their tablet and mobile shoppers and paying attention to their cross-channel brand experience,” he said.

“Mobile commerce is heading to a place where no touch point can simply be an extension of the Web or branding – all touch points must serve their full potential as fully-optimized, revenue–generating storefronts.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York