Online Retailers Dialing Up Mobile Strategies, Survey Finds

Based on Forrester Research report on online retailing, cost-conscious businesses should seriously consider investing in a mobile retailing strategy in order to stay competitive and grow market share.

Consumers' increasing appetite for mobile applications is driving online retailers to speed up their mobile marketing initiatives, according to a Forrester Research study produced in partnership with, the National Retail Federation's digital division. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of online retailers either already have or are developing a mobile strategy. The report also found one in five boasts having a fully implemented mobile strategy in place already.

The survey of 109 companies is part of "The State of Retailing Online" research series, which provides e-business professionals with an annual industry benchmark for marketing and business investment and activities. Earlier this year, Forrester forecast U.S. online retail sales to total $173 billion in 2010. According to the report, Web retailers with mobile strategies are investing in features that support the cross-channel experience: Product and price information, store information and coupons to support the in-store experience are among the most popular features that retailers are offering consumers, the report said.

The report also found while retailers are finding value in social media marketing, the return on investment (ROI) for driving online sales remains murky. Listening to customers is the most significant objective for social tools according to respondents, with 80 percent of retailers reporting that they are pursuing social strategies to experiment and learn. And while 28 percent noted that social marketing has helped grow their business, direct sales from social tactics are not widely measured.
"It's imperative for online retailers to stay on top of what their customers want and these days it's all mobile all the time," said Scott Silverman, executive director of "Mobile commerce has tremendous potential and will no doubt grow to become a significant part of overall sales volume in years to come. Whether to increase customer satisfaction, grow their brand or drive traffic and sales, online retailers are in this game to stay."
Traditional marketing tactics such as paid search, e-mail and affiliate marketing command the biggest percentage of an online retailers' marketing budget: According to the report, retailers are spending nearly 40 percent of their marketing budget on paid search. While respondents anticipated spending on average $170,000 on their mobile sites this year, large multichannel retailers are spending several times that amount, while respondents from smaller online operators are on average are investing much less.
"Mobile investment is modest now, but we see that it will pick up in the future, especially among the biggest brands that have already invested significant amounts in their mobile operations," concluded Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principal analyst for Forrester Research and the lead author of the report.