Event Reveals Retailers Falling Behind Consumers' Use of Mobile
I attended Google's ThinkMobile seminar in London last week. The event was part of Google's efforts to shed more light on the Web going mobile and the implications of that for commerce. ThinkMobile attracted nearly 200 delegates from UK companies of all shapes and sizes. Presentations were given by a range of speakers either involved in mobile Web design or who have embraced mobile Web sites as part of their strategy and who were sharing the results.
Google and other presenters cited statistics that mobile access to stores and brands is not only increasing rapidly but should now be regarded as mainstream, with a quarter to one-third of visits coming from mobile devices. For example:
- In 2010 6 percent of YouTube views were on mobile, in 2012 it is 25 percent
- In 2010 4 percent of travel searches were on mobile, in 2012 it is 24 percent
- In 2010 7 percent of entertainment searches were on mobile, in 2012 it is 25 percent
- In 2010 no visits to Debenhams (a large retailer) site were on mobile, in 2012 it is 30 percent
- 31 percent of mobile users have made a purchase on a mobile device
- 17 percent of mobile users have changed their mind while in a store, thanks to a query carried out on a mobile device
- eBay has more than 1 million listings a week on mobile, and expects about one-third of its transactions to be completed on mobile devices in 2012
Reinforcing these statistics was the message that customers are changing how they use the mobile Web faster than retailers are. Consumers do not differentiate what they are doing by channel or by screen — it's all just access to the same brand. And it's starting to feel strange if a brand doesn't offer access to its site and let people buy things over the main channels, especially mobile (TV less so today, but it's building).
Another element being seen in consumer behaviour is "second screening": the use of smartphones and tablets for research or responding to adverts while watching TV. A third factor was that consumers who engage with a brand on mobile devices are more engaged with the brand, and are likely to spend more with that brand — Debenhams cited a threefold increase in spending among mobile users.
With these factors in mind, there was broad consensus that a "mobile first" design approach should be applied to e-mail and Web sites, with tablet-optimised versions also a high priority. The changes in consumer behaviour have also become a strong reason for retailers to invest in Wi-Fi in stores, so that they can support mobile users' shopping behaviour when they're in the store.
Although the statistics and commercial logic appear strong, direct return on investment is likely to be challenging to measure. With the advent of multiple channels of access to stores and brands, we are seeing more-complicated consumer behaviour. It has become common for buyers to research a product on a mobile device, but delay the purchase until they are sat at a PC, or can visit the store physically.
These types of behaviour across channels are hard to measure, to the extent that it is difficult to put together a business case. Alex von Schirmeister, eBay's head of marketing in Europe, warned the audience at the ThinkMobile event to "beware of left-brainers" — the rational, analytical executives who need hard evidence before making a decision about investment in their mobile site. He told delegates not the wait until they had enough data — the behaviour is already mainstream and brands need to keep up.