With the 2013 online holiday shopping season underway, the pressure is on retailers to post strong sales growth while adjusting to a fast-changing and increasingly mobile-driven landscape. With strong growth expectations for online shopping this year, mobile commerce promises to emerge as a major theme. As we explored in our recent whitepaper, a majority of the digital population now uses both desktop and mobile (i.e. smartphone and tablet) devices for their online media consumption, and as of September 2013 approximately one-third of consumers are visiting the top digital retail brands exclusively via mobile platforms.
Most interestingly, however, is the fact that these mobile visitors are behaving very differently depending on which retailer they are engaging with. Visitors to the top three online retail properties Amazon Sites, eBay, and Apple.com Sites spend a wide majority of the time engaging via app as opposed to the mobile web. However, the opposite is true for visitors of the remaining leading retailer sites (most of which are multi-channel retailers), where 71-98 percent of the time is spent engaging via the mobile web. So why the great contrast between the top three online retailers and everyone else? And what are the implications?
The reason for the contrast is simple: mobile users only download so many apps. App real estate is a limited commodity, as is a mobile devices storage capabilities. The result is that most people are only going to download their favorite one to three retail apps and use their web browser if they ever need to shop online somewhere else. The most preferred retail apps tend to be the pure plays (i.e. retailers who only do business through the Internet) such as Amazon and eBay. These companies have long since built a reputation as the go-to sites to buy products on the Internet. Its not surprising that when shoppers decide which apps to download, they more often than not choose one or both of those two properties. (Side note: Apple has very high app usage due to the fact that their app is their digital hub where you would search for, buy, and engage with digital content, e.g. listen to music, watch a TV show, etc.).
As a result of this mobile dynamic, the multi-channel retailers may be at something of a disadvantage. They are at a mindshare disadvantage by not being front-and-center on the mobile device screen when someone is ready to begin mobile shopping. They are also forced to rely on mobile websites, which may not be optimized to the shopping and check-out experience particularly in terms of storing log-in and payment information. As m-commerce continues to grow, it will only become more critical for retailers to ensure they are part of the consideration set on peoples mobile phones. And that means getting consumers to download and use their app.