How mobile commerce is shaking up the retail landscape

November 7, 2012, 1:44 pm Todd Wasserman Mashable Tech

‘Tis the season for brick-and-mortar retailers to freak out. Just as mobile is changing the media and advertising landscape, it’s wreaking havoc on retail as well.

‘Tis the season for brick-and-mortar retailers to freak out. Just as mobile is changing the media and advertising landscape, it’s wreaking havoc on retail as well. Showrooming — the phenomenon in which consumers visit a store and then use their phones to buy items they see on Amazon — is becoming a major headache.



It’s also becoming prevalent. Some 35% of consumers confessed to showrooming in Q2, according to comScore.

Yet there are other ways that m-commerce is reshaping the retail landscape. The mobilization of shopping also will mean big trouble for smaller retailers, but it presents some new opportunities as well.

The App Race

There’s some good news for the Warehouses and Noel Leemimgs of the world: About 80% of phone-based m-commerce transactions in the United States are happening via apps. Andrew Lipsman, VP of industry analysis at comScore, says that generally American consumers will only put a handful of retail apps on their phone out of a total of 41 total apps, on average. “Maybe you only want three retailers — eBay, Amazon and Walmart,” he says. “It’s a risk for small niche retailers.”



Looking at the situation in the US, early winners in the app race include Target, Zappos, Toys R Us, Walmart, Amazon, Nordstrom, Zara, Walgreens, eBay, Gilt, LivingSocial and Groupon, all of which are included in the “Apps for Shopping” collection in Apple’s App Store. While some of the brands likely got on the list because of their sheer size, Lipsman says Groupon, LivingSocial and eBay earn their keep because they flash deals at consumers, making them more top of mind.

Couch (and Bed) Commerce

A recent study by AOL and ad agency BBDO found that “mobile” is a misnomer for phones, since 68% of the time they’re used at home. In particular, 40% of shopping moments happened when consumers were sitting in front of their TVs, phone in hand and a significant amount are shopping from their beds. “It’s becoming the new habit,” says Christian Kugel, VP, Consumer Analytics and Research at AOL. “The phone is always on them. It’s a personal thing. You have the phone configured the way you like it. For a lot of stuff, you don’t need a 20-inch screen to get a sense of the product.”

Tablets, however, represent an even bigger opportunity. Lipsman estimates that twice as much m-commerce is happening on tablets vs. phones. (The AOL study just looked at phones.) In addition to couch shopping, consumers are also using their tablets to buy stuff from their beds. “These occasions just didn’t exist before,” Lipsman says.



Transactions are only part of the activity, though. Both phones and tablets are being used the way catalogs used to. In the AOL study, which divided mobile use into seven categories, consumers were found to be perusing shopping apps and sites on mobile devices either to accomplish something (like buy a Christmas gift), to discover something or for “me time.” Often this is happening at night.

The Ascendence of Tablets

Since tablets are becoming a bigger factor in m-commerce than smartphones, Kurt Heinemann, CMO for mobile marketing firm Monetate recommends that retailers put a lot of thought into how their websites come across on tablets.

That’s right, websites, not apps. Heinemann says people use tablets much differently than they use smartphones. That means they’re visiting websites. But if the websites come across clunky on a tablet, they’ll take their business elsewhere. To prevent such an occurrence, Heinemann says retailers should make the buttons on their sites bigger and get rid of features like mouse rollover, which alienate tablet users.

Such tablet users, after all, are often the same people who have been showrooming with their cell phones. They’re not necessarily buying on their phones, though. “With showrooming, the decision is ‘Should I buy here or not?” says Heinemann. “It’s likely a postponement; they’ll wait until they get home and then buy it on their PC or tablet.”

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