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Retailers must plan increased investments in mobile as consumers demand more social and location-based interactions

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Nearly 90% of retailers believe that location and mapping will be a big trend in m-commerce in 2012 and that social will also play a big role in multichannel, finds a study by strategic information management company Stibo Systems. However, only a quarter of retailers are actually planning on investing in location-based and geo-spatial technology this year.

The study –which was undertaken in January 2012 by independent research house Coleman Parkes and surveyed 100 senior executives at the UK’s top retailers – found that cross-channel retailing remains a clear priority for UK retailers, with more than three quarters (78%) of respondents stating that strategic investment to enhance consumers’ multi-channel experience will drive retail sales this year.

The findings are backed up by a separate study by mobile advertising company JiWire, that finds that 75% of consumers now take action after seeing a location-specific marketing messages on their mobiles.

JiWire’s report discovered that 80% of the on-the-go audience prefers locally relevant advertising and 75% are more likely to take an action after seeing a location-specific message. The top three actions include clicking on location-specific ads (31%), searching for the nearest location (21%) and/or conducting additional research (21%).

Behaviour further varies by smartphone device type. After clicking on an ad, iPhone users are most likely to conduct additional research (22%), Android users search for the nearest location (25%), and Blackberry users immediately make a purchase (21%).

“It is exciting to see how important location-specific messaging is to consumers today,” said David Staas, senior vice president of marketing at JiWire. “As the on-the-go audience demands locally relevant information, brands need to focus on reaching consumers in and around their locations.”

The findings of both reports highlight a growing need for retailers to have proper multi-channel strategies in place, revealing mobile as the key growth channel for 2012. Indeed, the Stibo research found that retailers are finally recognising the importance of mobile commerce, with approximately half (48%) planning to enhance their mobile offering by the end of the year. Of those, 53% are looking to enable their online websites for mobile while 44% plan to facilitate mobile transactions.

Stibo’s study also suggests that retailers are looking to invest in transactional mobile websites that are rich in multimedia and strengthened by detailed product information. However, retailers reported lack of budget (58%) and legacy technology systems (37%) as the biggest barriers to investment in these mobile strategies.

Meanwhile, Stibo identified a trend towards convenience, with 71% of retailers reporting a sharp rise in the number of consumers demanding same day delivery. Similarly, half of retailers state that consumers expect shopping on the move via transactional mobile sites.

The research demonstrates retailers’ need for a strong product information management solution underpinning their strategy, to accommodate the rise in mobile commerce. To illustrate, comprehensive product information was identified as the most important aspect of a retailer’s website in terms of product pages (56%), ahead of images (13%), consumer reviews (12%), links to similar products (9%) and rich content (8%). Retailers are also witnessing high demand from shoppers for detailed information about products, with over half (58%) stating that this was a top consumer requirement.

Mark Thorpe, Managing Director UK at Stibo Systems, explains: “Mobile is a growing facet of a retailer’s multi-channel strategy, and while retailers have long been aware of it, most have not actively moved towards putting a proper mobile strategy in place. Our previous research has found that consumers aren’t satisfied with their mobile shopping experience, so it is promising that retailers now recognise the need to focus on their multi-channel offerings. Worryingly, lack of ‘know how’ was cited by 15% of retailers as a reason for slow implementation of m-commerce. This, coupled with consumer demands for a more enriched shopping experience including more social interactions and product information, shows that retailers need to invest in the right technology to underpin their multi-channel offering to manage master product data across all channels.”

Ian Parkes, Director at Coleman Parkes adds: “This research provides a comprehensive overview of the multi-channel landscape for 2012 and ‘SoLoMo’ (social, location and mobile) seem to be the biggest growth areas. We have found that retailers recognise the importance of mobile commerce, and realise that consumers are moving on from using mobile devices simply for browsing to actively purchasing. Our findings suggest that the shrewdest retailers will now be preparing for internationalisation and geo-spatial retailing, yet maintaining detailed product information across multiple channels remains the biggest priority.”

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