New study reveals UK retailers are unprepared for mobile commerce

Kony, the mobile application provider, has announced the results of a study into the driving factors behind current mobile trends, which analysed UK consumer and business attitudes towards mobile shopping and the impact that mobile is having on traditional shopping methods. The research, conducted by Vanson Bourne*, revealed that 42 per cent of retailers believe mobile commerce is already affecting shopping behaviour at physical retail locations, while a staggering 89 per cent believe mobile will be as popular as ecommerce.  However, despite this, less than one in five retailers surveyed reported having a mobile strategy fully in place, and almost a third have no plans to implement one at all.

"The aim of this study was to assess the preparedness of UK retailers for mobile in relation to consumer expectations and demands," said David Eads, head of product marketing at Kony.  "The results show a significant discrepancy between retailers' anticipations of the impact of mobile and the strategies that they currently have in place to facilitate this demand. It is clear that mobile is already affecting shopping habits and has the potential to overtake e-commerce in the next few years. "

The shift towards mobile is happening in diverse ways and across a number of different channels, with retailers currently placing different emphasis on each area 45 per cent of retailers identified native mobile applications as the most critical mobile commerce channel to their business, while 40 per cent believe mobile web is more important.  SMS is clearly waning with just 10 per cent naming it most important. On average, retailers expect to spend 21 percent of their budget on the development and implementation of a mobile strategy, but notably 10 percent are already investing between 40 to 50 per cent of their budget into mobile.

The research also demonstrated how the rapid fragmentation of the mobile market is leading to increasingly varied consumer preferences and demands. The consumers surveyed expressed a clear preference for mobile during the decision making process, with 60 per cent claiming to use mobile internet to make decisions in a store or while shopping online. Similarly, 40 per cent use mobile applications to make shopping decisions and 37 percent use a mixture of the two. While 74 per cent of retailers to have a presence on the iPhone, 58 per cent of consumers prefer to shop and browse on other platforms, meaning that by developing for just the iPhone, retailers are ignoring a significant portion of their customer base.

"The discrepancy between what retailers know they should do and what they are actually doing demonstrates how difficult it is to deliver mobile applications across the wide variety of phones, tablets, and browsers," continued Eads. "Companies need a partner to manage the mobile chaos so they can focus on growing their business. Retailers are limiting themselves by only serving customers in a few channels. If retailers don't serve their customers, they will go somewhere else. The data clearly shows some retailers are investing significantly in this channel to win those customers. They will attract those customers. The only way to leapfrog the competition and ensure the success of any mobile strategy is to provide customers with a comprehensive offering with those must-have mobile features and functions."

According to Mark Blowers, Practice Leader at Ovum, "As customer experience differentiation grows more important in the competitive retail environment, retailers should look at mobile, not only as a sales channel but also as a vital tool for customer interaction in a complete multichannel retail operation. When developing mobile application strategies, retailers must not think of mobile as a silo but from the outset, integrate the channel into the existing operation."

Finally, the survey also explored the development of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, consumer attitudes towards mobile payments, and how retailers plan to implement the technology within their stores. 57 per cent of retailers surveyed are considering the technology as part of their overall mobile strategy, citing competitive pressures and customer demand as key drivers for this decision.  A quarter of consumers already want to use their mobiles to pay for items in-store as opposed to using cards or cash despite the low awareness of the technology among consumers.

Consumers cite convenience (59 per cent) as the reason for using mobile payments. Security concerns (39 percent) remain a key reason why consumers say they don't want to pay with mobile, suggesting a real opportunity for retailers to significantly increase interest in mobile payments by addressing these concerns and this lack of education since NFC provides significantly security advantages.
Detailed results of the survey can be found here.

* Kony survey of 100 marketing and IT directors at UK retail businesses and 1000 consumers conducted by Vanson Bourne, March 2011.

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