Consumers and Retailers Buy Into Mobile in a Big Way

Even as Facebook dominated the news last week with its long-awaited IPO, below the surface was the lurking issue of the mobile market. In its filing, Facebook reported that 425 million active users (about half of their user base) visited Facebook via a mobile device in December 2011. Yet Facebook said, “We currently do not show ads or directly generate any meaningful revenue from users accessing Facebook through out mobile products…”

As a newly public company hungry for revenue, this is sure to change. In fact, rumors of a Facebook smartphone continue to swirl. While Facebook ponders its mobile strategy, however, there can be no doubt that the mobile market is exploding.

Retailers are Going Mobile

Late last year, I cited several examples of mobile marketing and m-commerce in the retail space. In September, Lowe’s was in the process of placing as many as 25 iPhones into each of its 1,700 stores to improve customer service. In November, Jack Stephenson, JPMorgan Chase bank’s Director of Mobile, Payments, and ecommerce predicted that the retail experience would be dramatically affected by mobile marketing, including NFC (Near Field Communication), the technology that allows mobile users to “tap” phones to make a payment, share content, etc. John Donahoe, President/CEO of eBay, spoke at the Open Mobile Summit in November about “the blurring of the lines between e-commerce, m-commerce and retail.” Donahoe said, “Retail and e-commerce are becoming one. Consumers don’t make a distinction between the two.”

According to Internet Retailer, a new survey of retailers in the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe indicates that over half of retailers surveyed will be giving store employees iPads within the next two years. Over 38 percent of them planned to issue iPhones to employees. Nikki Baird, Managing Partner at Retail Systems Research, an advisory firm, told Internet Retailer that the iPad is “the perfect form factor for an associate. It allows retailers to take advantage of rich media and larger images for both the customer experience as well as employee training.”

Consumers are Driving Mobile Adoption

Manish Rai, Head of Industry Solutions at Aruba Networks, the company that conducted the above-mentioned survey, told Internet Retailer that retailers are responding to changing shopper behavior. “Today every other shopper walks into a store carrying a smartphone and increasingly using them for price comparison,” said Rai. “With an e-tailer with cheaper prices just a click away, bricks-and-mortar retailers are looking to differentiate in-store service to retain customers.”

Consumer adoption of the smartphone and the tablet has reached the point where both bricks-and-mortar and online retailers are forced to adapt or lose business. New apps are making it easier than ever to comparison shop. With “Flow Powered by Amazon,” a consumer can simply point a smartphone at books, games, DVDs, or CDs to get product descriptions and purchase information instantly. eBay says it is working on similar image recognition technology. Both Amazon and eBay now have iPhone and iPad apps that customize the shopping experience for mobile users. With Google Goggles, users can search the web by taking pictures of objects with their smartphones.

At the same time, digital coupon distribution is growing—up over 12 percent in 2011 as compared to 2010, according to Kantar Media. Coupons printed in FSIs (Free Standing Inserts that appear in newspapers or are delivered via direct mail) dropped 6.5 percent in 2011 vs. 2010, and spending on newspaper inserts declined by 12 percent. One-third of manufacturers using digital coupons stopped using FSIs altogether. Digital coupons are easily deliverable on mobile devices. Not surprisingly, daily deal services, such as Groupon and LivingSocial, offer the option of receiving e-certificates that mobile users can simply show to retailers to take advantage of the deals.

The data is hard to neglect. Everything points to the “mobile-ization” of consumers and retailers alike.

Time to Make the Move to Mobile

Every online marketer needs to be aware of the significant impact the mobile shift will have on the way you do business. Blogs and websites should be optimized for mobile platforms. Marketers should consider developing Apps for the iPhone and Android markets using such tools as iBuildApp, which just announced new beta features that let anyone build an app without cost. The iPad, Kindle Fire, and tablets in general should be viewed as an emerging market with its own potential.

This is the year to make the move to mobile. Don’t miss out

About Barry Silverstein

Barry Silverstein is a freelance writer/marketing consultant. In addition to writing for ReveNews, he is a contributing writer to Brandchannel.com, the world’s leading online branding forum. He is the author of three marketing books, The Breakaway Brand (co-author, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press, 2003) and Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press, 2003). Barry ran his own Internet and direct marketing agency for twenty years. You can find Barry on Twitter @bdsilv.

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