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Retailers wary of mobile, says PortalTech, but they’ll all be using it come 2011

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Many retailers are yet to be convinced about mobile, with most of the naysayers seeing it more as a threat from outside, rather than something they can harness themselves, or having no clear ROI. So reveals e-commerce consultants PortalTech, following 18 months of talks with many of its retail clients who have already embraced e-commerce.

That said, PortalTech is convinced that every major retailer in the developed world will be using mobile aggressively by the end of 2010.

Most retailers know that mobile has a role in retail and marketing, says the company’s director Mark Adams, but most equate mobile retail with price comparison services run by third parties that take business out of their premises and off their websites, rather than converting browsers to sales.

“We need to educate them that using mobile to drive people to websites and into stores is the way to harness the power of these services, not to worry about price sites taking people away,” he says. “And the front runners are starting to see that mobile is the glue that holds together their websites, their marketing collateral and their stores and are keen to embrace it.”

The fear amongst retailers was backed up in January when research into Christmas shoppers by eDigital Research suggested that one in four people were using phone to research goods for sale cheaper elsewhere while in store. A further one in ten also used mobile to see where else they could find certain goods when the store they were in was out of stock.

PortalTech believes, however, that this is an opportunity for retailers rather than a threat. “Early adopters are looking at how to develop their own mobile services that scan barcodes and in store promos to deliver a much richer, more online-like experience to customers in-store,” says Adams. “We have been talking to some 20 or so leading retailers about doing just this with our ‘stripeylines’ app, so it will come.”

Stripeylines was an app rolled out by PortalTech in February to demonstrate what was possible with a bar-code reading app. Initially targeted at consumers, it soon gained interest among retail brands keen to utilise it to make the shopping experience richer, says Adams.

“Apps like this certainly show what can be done and stripeylines can always be white labelled and licenced out to retailers who want to use and enhance it,” he says. “But, as with all apps, retailers are still struggling to see what the ROI might be: there is still no data on how such things increase footfall and generate greater conversion of that footfall into sales at the moment,” he says.

So, analysts out there: if you want something to do, take a look at how mobile can impact on in-store sales and put us all out of our misery.

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