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In Mobile Retail, It's Amazon and Everybody Else

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In mobile waters, retailers must deal with Amazon.
In mobile waters, retailers must deal with Amazon.

The new Retail Mobile Path to Purchase study conducted by xAd and Telmetrics in collaboration with Nielsen provides more than a few revelations.

Showrooming Is Overblown. According to the study, compiled from online interviews of 2,000 smartphone and tablet users, plus data from Nielsen's Smartphone Analytics Panel, 77% of people who research products on their smartphones make their purchases in stores.

Tablets and Smartphones are Different Channels. And the same consumer is two different animals depending on which device he or she is using. Pricing and deals are of paramount importance to the tablet shopper—as opposed to store location for smartphone shoppers—and 55% of them consummate their transactions online.

But the top-of-the-fold attention-grabber has to be this one: Mobile Shoppers All Sail the Amazon.

More than half (55%) of all mobile web searches and app engagements of retailers are directed at Amazon.  Walmart, whose annual revenues exceed the Gross Domestic Product of Norway, garners but 13%. Target registers 12% and a procession of household names including Kroger and Meijer peter out into the single digits (unless you're counting the ones on the other side of the decimal point).

When one considers the actual amount of time smartphone users dally with Amazon, the shadow of shame spreads wider over the rest of the retail world.  Three quarters (74.4%) of all cell phone time shoppers spend with retailers are spent with the piranha of mobile minutes.  And while mobile agencies and e-commerce consultants advise companies to downplay apps and focus their mobile efforts on search and optimized emails, Amazon's app is king. Of the 2 million minutes smartphone users spent with Amazon in October 2012, according to the study, 79% of them were on the e-commerce giant's app.

Monica Ho, VP of marketing for xAd, says that Amazon's mobile dominance is more about content than commerce—initially at least. “Amazon has amassed a huge following that accesses their descriptions of products and reviews,” Ho says, though she notes that only 2% of consumers in the study said they made purchases from Amazon via mobile devices in-store. “Most of the other major retailers use mobile to drive people to their stores and then enhance their experience when they get there.  But they should be concerned about Amazon if shoppers can't find what they're looking for in their stores.”

Brick-and-mortar players have a wide-open opportunity to take control of customers in their stores, the study findings show. Only 6% of consumers said they were inside a store the last time they accessed retail-related information on their mobile devices. Since 60% of consumers researching via smartphone also said they were looking to make a purchase within a day, retailers can use mobile to convert sales if they learn to play the game better, Ho says.

“Give shoppers a store map on your app, give them a price guarantee, allow them to scan items for pricing and other information. Walmart does a pretty good job of this,” she says. “What Amazon does online, others need to emulate in-store.”

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