Retailers shifting to mcommerce, social media

Retailers shifting to mcommerce, social media

As the landscape of retail continues its rapid evolution in the direction of ecommerce and mcommerce, a growing number of retail businesses are now experimenting with social media and mobile functionality, according to a recent study.

The survey, entitled The State of Retailing Online 2011: Marketing, Social and Mobile, was conducted by Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation.

According to the study's findings, the vast majority of retailers are aggressively pursuing mobile functionality as a direction for their businesses. Approximately 91 percent of retailers polled indicated they either already have a mobile strategy in place or are in the process of developing one. This represents a considerable increase from the 74 percent who said the same in 2010.

Furthermore, 72 percent of respondents told Shop.org they intend to increase their spending on online social networks during 2011.

Sixty-eight companies were surveyed for the study.

Fiona Swerdlow, head of research for Shop.org, said new devices, such as tablet computers, are now a key area of focus for retailers interested in mcommerce. "After spending the last few years learning how to capitalize on social media and new mobile technologies, one of retailers’ main focuses right now seems to be leveraging the tremendous popularity of tablet devices, such as the iPad,” Swerdlow said.

According to Swerdlow, the boundaries between sales channels are blurring progressively, leading companies to develop applications that "make their brands seem current, entertaining or fun, while at the same time creating a unique opportunity to connect with more shoppers than ever before."

The study found that approximately 48 percent of retailers now have websites that are optimized for mobile users. While 35 percent have deployed a custom iPhone app, approximately 15 percent offer apps both for the iPhone and for Google's Android operating system.

Forrester Research vice president Sucharita Mulpuru said the study's data "indicates that significant investments in social and mobile tactics will be in place this year.” Retail businesses would do well to "increasingly integrate features and functionality into the physical store experience," Mulpuru said.

A significant percentage of mobile transactions are now conducted using tablet devices. According to the study, approximately 21 percent of mcommerce traffic now comes from tablets.

This is a significant development, given the relatively recent introduction of tablet devices to the market. Apple's popular iPad device was first launched in April 2010 and sold approximately 3 million units in its first 80 days. At the Consumer Electronics Show in 2011, more than 80 new devices were announced to compete with the iPad.