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Target blows past Walmart as most-browsed retailer on mobile

Target was the most-browsed retailer on mobile over the past six months, knocking Walmart from the top spot, according to a new report from Mobiquity.  Each retailer has taken a slightly different approach to mobile this year and continues to see strong growth rates.

The findings underscore the success of Target’s efforts to build its mobile strategy, with 39 percent of smartphone shoppers and 45 percent of tablet shoppers browsing Target’s app and site, up from 22 percent and 28 percent last year. The Apple Store was the retailer which consumers shopped the most from during this period, with 49 percent using their smartphones to purchase from Apple this year, up from 14 percent and replacing Best Buy in the top spot.

“Always place the user at the heart of the design and user experience – consumers expect the same rich experiences on mobile as they do online,” said Gene Signorini, vice president of mobile insights at Mobiquity, Wellesley, MA. “Target and Apple have done a superb job in this area.

“They’ve also made mobile part of a true omni-channel strategy,” he said. “Apple hired a former Burberry executive to lead its retail efforts and improve customer experiences across every channel. Not all retailers need to hire a Burberry executive, but they do need to understand that mobile has a direct influence on in-store and online sales, and must be a top channel consideration.

“Retailers need to keep up with rapid changes in mobile technology and stay on top of consumer mobile behaviors. Apple and Target continually evolve their mobile sites and apps to enhance the user experience.”

Social vs. in-store
For the second-year running, Target, Wal-Mart and Best Buy are consumers’ top research destinations on smartphones and tablets.

One of Target’s key differentiators in mobile this year is its focus on leveraging mobile social experiences. In comparison, Walmart’s focus has been on driving in-store shopping via mobile.

This year, Target introduced the Cartwheel application and the Awesome Shop microsite, both of which lean on mobile social interactions.

The Target Awesome Shop, which is currently in beta, creates a highly curated shopping experience that seems tailor-made for mobile. By offering Target items that are most pinned on Pinterest and have the best reviews on, the retailer is able to merchandise popular items on mobile in a way that makes them easy to shop (see story).

The Cartwheel app was developed with Facebook and makes it easy for mobile users to find, share and redeem offers.

Also driving Target’s success with mobile users is the support the retailer has been putting behind its redesigned iPhone and iPad apps.

Walmart’s focus in mobile this year has been on the in-store experience via an in-store mode for its app that includes a built-in scanner, a store’s circular and sale items.

In some markets, the app also has a Scan & Go feature that enables users to scan items, add them to their basket and use self-checkout to pay. Walmart has been expanding Scan & Go’s availability throughout the year.

On par with online
The Mobiquity report reveals that the overall volume of actual purchasing taking place at top retailers via mobile devices is up substantially, with smartphones accounting for between 33 percent and 49 percent of online shopping at top retailers compared to between 7 percent and 23 percent last year. Mobile sales exceeded 17 percent of total online sales, an increase of 55.4 percent year-over-year.

Mobile traffic grew overall to 31.7 percent of online traffic on Cyber Monday, up 45 percent.

The results point to the gains that retailers have made in delivering stronger mobile shopping experiences, with 36 percent of consumers saying mobile shopping is on par with online shopping. However, 35 percent still think the mobile shopping experience is worse.

Mobile is driving both in-store and online traffic, underscoring its importance to retailers. After browsing on a tablet, 36 percent said they completed their purchase in-store.

After browsing on a smartphone, 23 percent transacted via a laptop or computer. Only a small fraction of consumers completed their purchases on a mobile device.

Better experiences still needed
Despite the significant gains made in mobile shopping this year, Mobiquity’s report reveals that consumers are still frustrated with the experience.

Shoppers complained most that the mobile shopping experience involves too many steps, products or reviews are hard to find and images are hard to see. This points to the importance of a strong focus on design and user experiences in mobile, with almost 50 percent saying they would be less likely to shop with a retailer if their mobile shopping experience is poor.

The report is based on a survey of 1,003 people in the United States evaluating their mobile shopping experiences during the last six months at 20 of the top bricks-and-mortar retail brands.

“[Target and Walmart] both offer really good mobile experiences, and in fact, both saw significant increases in both mobile shoppers and mobile browsers over 2012,” Mr. Signorini said.

“What stands out about both is an impressive product selection, a smooth purchasing process and a clean layout that’s easy to navigate,” he said. “They were among the mobile shopping leaders last year and continued to innovate this year.

“The fact that they are two of the largest bricks-and-mortar retailers in the country probably doesn’t hurt either, as loyal shoppers from both likely will search the mobile sites.”

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