For 2012, Mobile Shopping’s Going Big Time

There’s plenty of optimism about holiday sales this year, and why not? The convergence of online and in-store experiences continues to pick up speed. Retailers have recognized the huge opportunities in mobile retail. And the popularity of tablet computers has opened the way for a new wave of shoppers who never leave home. If 2011 was the year of shopping with your smartphone, 2012 is the year of shopping with your iPad.

Amid all the holiday sales forecasts floating around these days, this one from Forrester Research jumped out: Online shopping in the U.S. will be up 15% this holiday season to $68.4 billion; and average spend will be up 12%. Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, has been quoted as saying that the increase stems from two things: online shopping and mobile commerce.

Retailers push toward omnichannel approach

In shopping more at home and on the go, consumers are responding to the barrage of moves this year by retailers that recognize the need to bring online and in-store experiences closer together. With the approach of the holiday season it seems that a day doesn’t go by when we don’t hear about an online retailer getting more aggressive in stores or a brick-and-mortar retailer introducing a new offering online. Offers of discounts, price matching and free shipping don’t hurt either, nor have big pushes from big players like Amazon and Facebook.

Vicki Cantrell, executive director of the National Retail Foundation’s, has said, “Consumers can expect even more of an integrated shopping experience this holiday season with companies also looking to enhance their mobile marketing efforts to capture the attention of the millions of holiday shoppers who are already thinking about their shopping lists.”

Mobile retailing now the smart play

Recently I read that “just in time for the holidays” Target would make Wi-Fi available in all its stores. That’s quite a change from a year ago, when some retailers suggested blocking signals and changing barcodes in effort to combat showrooming.

This year – and it’s really happened this year — retailers have embraced the reality that consumers are gathering shopping information with their smartphones. They’re taking advantage of the fact that consumers know a lot about products in stores and they’re using mobile applications to help them make a buying decision. This year, I think, you’ve seen retailers and consumers getting on the same page and leveraging mobile technology. Clearly both have benefited.

The tablet-at-home combination

Our experience with ShopSavvy is that 90 percent of those using ShopSavvy for the iPhone are doing so while standing in retail stores. But as more mobile shopping applications are adapted for the tablet computer, a whole new customer base opens up: those who shop at home using their tablets. They skip the crowds and the parking hassles, and with integrated wallet features, they can get the best deal and shipping to their house, all with the swipe of a finger.

It’s estimated that among owners of mobile devices, 18% of smartphone owners and 24% of tablet owners have purchased through those devices. Those numbers demonstrate the huge opportunity here. Here are some more: Forrester estimates that by the end of the year, 60 million consumers will own tablet computers. No doubt plenty of those will be received as holiday presents.

For retailers, the tablet is the gift that keeps on giving.

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