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Retailers marketing hard to mobile; apps on the outs

By Model Retailer Staff
Published: February 13, 2015
Reaching customers who use smartphones and tablets ranks high on retailers' to-do lists, according to a 2015 Shop.org/Forrester Research Inc., study. The "State of Retailing Report" says 58 percent of surveyed retailers put it first on their list of marketing priorities. That's up from 53 percent last year.
 
The survey also found smartphone sales as a percentage of online sales grew from 8 percent in 2013 to 12 percent in 2014, while tablet use jumped from 13 percent of online sales in 2013 to 16 percent in 2014.
 
Retailers maintain modest digital marketing budgets and count on consumers to come to them. However, eight in 10 surveyed plan to increase their mobile budgets by at least 20 percent in 2015.
 
"Consumers are flocking to retailers' mobile sites at a faster pace and with more interaction than ever before, so naturally they expect retailers to offer fast, well-designed mobile services that meet their needs," said National Retail Foundation senior vice president and Shop.org executive director Vicki Cantrell. "With that in mind, and with several years of mobile commerce now under the industry's belt, retailers feel confident in their mobile investments."
 
Following mobile on retailers' strategy lists, 45 percent of those surveyed cited omnichannel efforts as their next priority to improve or invest in programs such as buy-online/pick up in store, ship-from-store and inventory visibility. Nearly four in 10 (38 percent) surveyed say marketing optimization was their third priority for 2015, which includes initiatives around customer retention and acquisition.
 
High costs to develop and manage company-specific apps — compared to optimizing mobile websites — have affected some mobile marketing budgets. More than half (56 percent) of retailers surveyed say that apps are not a key component of their mobile marketing strategy.
 
"Apps are simply too expensive to build and maintain for most retailers, begging the question — what's after apps?" says Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. "We'll see retailers focus spending on redesigning the core site, which benefits the site experience beyond mobile, and embracing responsive design — an approach that retailers favor over apps, with nearly half already applying it to their mobile site."
 
The industries surveyed included apparel, footwear, general merchandise, home furnishings and personal care.