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Less than half of most popular UK retail websites are mobile optimized or have an app, as consumers move towards m-commerce faster than retailers

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Just four out of the top 20 most frequently visited retailer websites are presently optimised for mobile, and only eight of the top 20 have any kind of mobile application for smartphones, despite the fact that each month in the UK, a staggering 4.2 million consumers are visiting retailers’ websites using the mobile internet, finds a study by the Association for Interactive Media and Entertainment (AIME), the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG).

However, while this may show that too few retailers have a solid mobile presence today, 41% plan to have a transactional mobile site or application in place within the next year, according to the study.

eDigital Research, commissioned by AIME, the IAB and the IMRG surveyed 140 marketing professionals from the retail, advertising and mobile service provider sectors in the UK to understand attitudes, behaviours and perceived challenges to mobile commerce. Over half (59%) of the senior-level representatives from UK retail brands that took part expected their mobile revenues to increase over the next 12 months, and 94% saw it as a real opportunity for their business.

The research highlights the need for retailers to move faster to keep with the consumers already seeking out retail websites via their mobile phones. But, with just four out of the top 20 most frequently visited retailer websites being optimised for mobile, and only eight of the top 20 having any kind of mobile application for iPhone, Blackberry or Android powered devices, many retailers could be missing out on additional revenues from the ready and willing mobile consumer traffic to their sites.

Whilst most retailers believe their mobile revenues will increase over the next few years, currently around 63% either make less than 1% of their total revenues via mobile, or don’t measure their mobile revenues at all at present, citing a lack of knowledge and expertise about the mobile platform. However, the research found that over half (59%) of the senior-level representatives from UK retail brands that took part in the survey, expected their mobile revenues to increase over the next 12 months, and 94% saw it as a real opportunity for their business.

In response to the research, Sienne Veit, Social and Mobile Commerce Development Manager at M&S Direct said: “Mobile internet sits at the heart of many of our customer’s lives, and we’ve invested significant resource to ensuring that their mobile experience is as straightforward and rewarding as possible. This research from AIME, the IAB and IMRG highlights how emerging mobile media looks set to play a much stronger role in UK commerce, and for us as retailers it’s been essential to establish a solid mobile presence to fully complement the evolving customer journey.”

Steve Ricketts, Head of Mobile Marketing and mCommerce Services, Everything Everywhere adds: “Retailers know that there is a huge audience wanting to engage with them via mobile and the mCommerce opportunity is there for the taking. It's great that just under half of respondents intend to provide customers with the opportunity to purchase via their mobile in the next 12 months - what the others need to ask themselves if they're happy letting their competitors steal the march.

Tom Sondej of eDigitalResearch said: “The research shows that retailers are all aware of boundless opportunities that mobile commerce holds such as increased revenues, identification of niche markets and a possibility to target ‘low incidence rate’ groups with different marketing mix campaigns. However mobile operating platforms must be fully optimised for the retail marketplace to take the full advantage of m-commerce and the research reveals that many retailers are still lagging behind in terms of developing their m-commerce offer. Good news is that more retailers anticipate m-commerce to become a part of their main strategy in the near future.”

Alex Kozloff, mobile manager for the Internet Advertising Bureau adds that: “For brands, extending their presence onto mobile has been a daunting prospect, simply due to the new jargon, technologies and tricks of the trade that need to be understood in order to make the most of the medium. But with UK consumers already seeking out brands on their mobile phones, in particular retailers, it really is essential that marketers ensure the mobile experience they offer is just as useful, usable and engaging as their other properties, both on and offline. If they don’t, those competitors who have already put mobile on the agenda may start to steal their otherwise loyal customers.”

Andrew McClelland, Director of Operations at IMRG believes that: “Consumers are once again driving demand for a new, convenient shopping channel, just as they did in the early days of online retailing. This time around, the cultural shift required for retailers to recognise this demand is much smaller and in many cases requires the optimisation of an existing web presence rather than a ‘ground-up’ development of a new technology. However, there is a thirst for knowledge with in the retail sector to best understand how a mobile channel fits with their customer proposition.”

The majority of UK retail brands welcomed the opportunity for further training in mobile commerce and advertising, recognising the increasing part the medium will play in the customer journey - 74% of those respondents stated that they would like to receive training in this area. Currently 1 in 10 retail marketers cites themselves as a ‘mobile expert’, while 43% believe they have a basic knowledge of the medium.

In the coming months, the AIME, IAB and IMRG will be holding a series of events around mobile commerce, as well as producing educational materials for retail brands and conducting further research into the behaviours and attitudes of UK consumers in this area.

Edward Boddington, Chairman of AIME and CEO of Harvest Media, concludes: “The results of this survey commissioned by these three leading trade associations clearly demonstrates the opportunity for M-Commerce to develop rapidly over the next 24 months from a £500m industry today. Increasingly, consumers are looking for best deals, especially in a tough economy and mobile represents the most convenient tool for instant redemption in the form of coupons and also loyalty clubs."
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