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Retailers stay static on mobile

Only half of retailers planned to spend in excess of $100,000 on mobile commerce in 2012, and 14% will spend nothing at all, according to a recent study by Forrester Research. This at a time when the company predicts that business done via smartphones will hit $12 billion this year.

It’s not that retailers are behind the times, says Forrester analyst Sulchurita Mulpuru, it’s that that mobile marketing currently offers merchants little in the way of revenue and much in the way of headaches. “There are a lot of good reasons to not over-invest in mobile if you’re a retailer, because the results they’re seeing are the same whether they’re spending millions or nothing,” she says.

Forrester joined with Shop.org to survey 43 CIOs and 82 loss prevention executives at large retail chains and found that the majority of them still focused on the Web and their stores. Sixty percent said their chief mobile commerce initiative was optimizing their websites for use on mobile browsers and 16% described their mobile efforts as “nothing special.”

“For now, e-commerce is still about people shopping from their living rooms,” Mulpuru says. “Beyond that, retailers are focused on new ways to make the store experience better.  There’s all this emphasis on augmented reality, but nobody has created the killer solution.”

The much-ballyhooed mobile wallet solutions offered by Google and PayPal have been met with a yawn at retail. One third of those surveyed said mobile payment systems were not in their budgets for 2012 and 26% assigned them low priority. Traditional bank credit cards—in place at stores represented by 93% of respondents—still fill retailer’s payment needs.

Mulpuru states the situation more forcefully. “Google Wallet is DOA. Its technology isn’t easier than the swipe,” she observes. “With the mobile wallet, you’re dependent on battery life and access at the point-of-sale. It’s hard to replace that mag stripe for ease of use. ”

A major impediment to retailer involvement in the mobile revolution is the lack of responsive design, a device-agnostic page design that can work as well on the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy as it can on all the other Androids filling the marketplace. Executives at these mostly national chains want an easy fix that won’t sap ROI and are not willing to invest in the in-house talent needed to respond to changing tech requirements. When asked how many full-time employees worked on smartphone or tablet initiatives in their companies, 42% said none and 23% said one or two.

It’s also undecided as to who will guide m-commerce in the executive suite. Twenty-nine percent of retailers reported that their CIO’s “owned” mobile strategy, while 24% named the CMO, and 22% said mobile was run by cross-functional teams.

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