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The difference between mobile Web and app shoppers

In order to figure out which channel is best to use, marketers need to first tie their commerce initiatives to a strategic goal. Shopping habits also differ significantly from smartphones to tablets.

“Mindset precedes toolset,” said Eric Feinberg, senior director of mobile, media and entertainment at ForeSee, New York. “The mindset of the customer visiting a tablet is decidedly different than a mobile phone visitor.

“According to our Mobile Satisfaction Index study, customer expectations and satisfaction are different between smartphone and tablet,” he said. “It’s a spectrum, with mobile on one side and the traditional PC Web experience on the other side. Tablets were once more closely aligned with the mobile experience. But what we’re seeing is that customers expect more of a fully optimized Web experience on their tablets – a full experience but tablet-optimized. Brands need to create a customer experience optimized for tablets rather than just pushing a regular Web site onto a mobile device because consumers expect more from a tablet than they do a smartphone.”

By the numbers
ForeSee recently released a report that looked at the top twenty retail mobile sites and apps and how they rank in customer service in its Mobile Satisfaction Index (see story).

The report found that 65 percent of mobile shoppers this holiday season are repeat consumers. Thirty-five percent of users are first-time mobile buyers.

Sixty-eight percent of shoppers in the study were on mobile sites while 32 percent were on apps. Although they represented a smaller number of consumers, the app users surveyed as being the most satisfied with their mobile shopping experience.

The data points to the mobile Web as attracting a larger amount of users. However marketers looking to retain users and increase loyalty might be better suited to an app.

Moreover, 37 percent of consumers in the study visited either a mobile site or app based on their familiarity with the brand, showing how consumers nowadays expect that their favorite retailers and brands have a mobile presence.

Shop on mobile
Another recent study from Javelin Research digs deeper into the shopping differences between mobile Web and app shoppers.

Javelin Research recently found some interesting differences between mobile Web and app shoppers in its “Mobile Payments Hit $20 Billion in 2012: Tablets Are Key to a Successful Retail Strategy” report (see story).

According to the study, commerce from mobile Web and apps will generate $20.3 billion out of the total mobile commerce market of $20.7 billion. This shows that despite the attention that mobile payments get, the real opportunity for mobile commerce right now still lies in apps and sites.

Per Javelin’s findings, app shoppers make an average of 2.5 transactions and spend $26 monthly. On the Web side, the average shopper made 2.54 purchases with a monthly spend of $37. Small items such as ringtones, paid apps and music attributed to the smaller app spend.

Additionally, the study found that 59 percent of consumers surveyed have used both a mobile app and site to buy.

Interestingly, 27 percent of mobile shoppers only buy through the mobile Web. Fourteen percent of consumers in the study only used apps to shop.

The figures show why it is important for brands to have both a mobile Web site and apps. The app sales most likely represent consumers who only download a few apps from their favorite brands onto their devices. These same users are shopping on the mobile Web though, too.

In order to capture the widest group of users, brands need to develop both mobile Web sites and apps.

“Mobile commerce should not be about native apps versus Web apps,” said Wladimir Baranoff-Rossine, founder/CEO of MobiCart, Newcastle upon Tyne, Britain. “It should be about offering the best possible experience to your customers on any mobile device. Retailers need to have a strategy for both options.”

Place your bets
After marketers understand how consumers shop, the next step is to set up mobile sites and apps to mimic the behaviors specific to each platform through merchandising.

“There are a number of layers to the way merchandising and product mix can be applied to a mobile shopping experience,” said Eric Newman, vice president of marketing and products at Digby, Austin, TX. “In many cases, retailers will choose to create a subset of their catalog specifically formulated for the mobile buyer – a simpler set of products to traverse on a small screen or a set of products most likely to be purchased by a mobile shopper for replenishment scenarios.”

For example, a mobile site might be better suited to push out best-selling products or the latest collections. On the other hand, apps can leverage a loyal user’s purchase history to serve up recommended products.

Location is also an important component to include in mobile commerce apps and sites. A simple store locator can help drive a mobile Web shopper to find the product in a bricks-and-mortar store while an app could track down store-specific inventory and offers.

“Unlike mobile Web, rich apps can proactively understand when a shopper visits a bricks-and-mortar store and that additional, real-time context opens up new possibilities for the retailer to engage that consumer in a meaningful way,” Mr. Newman said.

“In the online world, retailers understand everything about the customer when they visit the Web site — matching up their shopping history with their current interests based on the way they traverse the site,” he said. “This allows the retailer to tailor the experience for the shopper, offering up relevant cross-sells and informed promotions that make sense to that shopper. Rich apps’ knowledge of location allows retailers to realize that same rich context for physical bricks-and-mortar locations, targeting meaningful, one-to-one digital marketing and customer service tailored to both their shopping history and current behaviors as they visit a particular store or uses the app to scan a bar code in the store.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York