Retailers looking to mobile to drive sales

A growing number of multichannel retailers are entering the mobile commerce space, taking advantage of ever-expanding smartphone offerings and consumers’ hunger for convenience.

Household name retailers including Chico’s and ShopNBC recently launched m-commerce sites, joining eBay, and Ralph Lauren, among others. has predicted that mobile e-commerce revenue will increase 65% per year by 2015.

“I see mobile as a true game changer,” says Carol Steinberg, SVP of e-commerce, marketing and business development at ShopNBC. “The portability of these devices, the ‘always on’ factor and the location-specific potential will create some tremendous opportunity for impulse shopping and considered shopping.”

ShopNBC has expanded its mobile shopping capabilities significantly in recent months.

The company launched a mobile commerce-enabled site in December, and released an iPhone app in April. The brand is developing a new version of its iPhone app, as well as shopping apps for the iPad and phones running the Android operating system. ShopNBC is working with mobile agency Usablenet to create the apps, all of which are enabled for consumer transactions.

Apple — a company renowned for selling mobile products through the Web — released an Apple Store application June 15 to let consumers purchase products from their iPhone or iPod Touch. The app also connects consumers to Apple’s customer service and helps them find bricks-and-mortar shopping locations.

Chico’s, meanwhile, took its e-commerce operation to the mobile web earlier this month, adding its three clothing brands and full range of products to consumers’ mobile shopping options.

ShopNBC also plans to release an SMS notification service this year, enabling consumers to sign up to receive text messages about special offers or products.

Steinberg would not disclose what percentage of sales ShopNBC sees from its m-commerce site, but she did say it is small but it growing week-over-week.

“Our number of orders has doubled on a daily basis, even in the spring months, showing that it is not just a holiday fad,” she says.

According to David Berkowitz, senior director of emerging media and innovation at digital agency 360i, “Mobile shopping in the sense of being able to compare prices on mobile phones or get more product information and engage in more research in the shopping process is becoming much more prominent.”

However, not everyone is sold on the idea that m-commerce sites and shopping apps are a necessity for consumers just yet. Julie

Ask, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research, says “there is a lack of need” for m-commerce platforms at this point.

“Why would I buy something on my phone when it is easier to buy it online?” she asks.

Ask says that m-commerce works best for time-sensitive items, like expiring auctions on eBay or last minute hotel bookings or gifts.

“These work because there is a time element — if something is expiring, or I have a change of plans, or I forgot to send a gift and need to send it soon,” she says.

Other marketers are considering adding mobile sites to their shopping channels, but are currently focusing on using mobile to aid consumers’ in-store or web-based shopping experiences.

For one, HP has not yet released an m-commerce-enabled site, though the manufacturer is considering it, says Tia Newcomer, director of shopper marketing for the Americas at HP.

However, the company is using a mobile enabled website and apps to support in-store product sales and to explain complicated products in-store, she says.

“We see mobile as a great way to help solve shopper pain points,” says Newcomer. “Shoppers can use their mobile phones to help them better understand what a printer does and find a printer that matches their needs.”

HP plans to create a video series explaining its products this year, and is considering using mobile coupons during this holiday season. Newcomer says that the company could also create special offers for loyalty members.

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