Though the majority of retailers are convinced that mobile commerce will eventually become as popular as e-commerce, just 16% have a strategy in place, and 28% have no plans to implement one. 

The findings are based on a Vanson Bourne survey of 100 marketing and IT directors at UK retailers, and 1,000 consumers. 

Here's a few highlights from the study...

Retailers' attitudes to mobile commerce

The timescales vary, but 83% believe mobile commerce will be as popular as e-commerce within five years, though the 6% who think it already is perhaps need to check some recent stats. Popularity is growing, but it's not near e-commerce just yet. 

Mobile commerce and retailers

Compared to US firms such as eBay and Amazon, many UK retailers have been relatively slow to react to the potential of mobile commerce, but that has changed over the past 12 months. 

Whereas a year ago, only a small number of UK retailers had some sort of m-commerce offering, big names like Tesco, M&S and John Lewis have a successful mobile presence.  

With these examples, and a number of success stories, from DebenhamsOcado and others, it's likely that more retailers will follow suit. 

16% of retailers have a mobile commerce strategy fully in place at the moment, a further 18% have implemented some aspects, while 8% have yet to implement it. 

So 42% have a strategy at various stages of development, and a further 30% plan to develop an m-commerce site or app at some point. Clearly, the 28% with no plans remain to be convinced. 

A mobile retail site doesn't have to cost the earth, and it can provide an opportunity for smaller retailers to compete with big guys. For example, retro t-shirt and gifts site TruffleShuffle developed a mobile website for a just a few hundred pounds. 

I asked Pat Wood of TruffleShuffle how the mobile site had worked, and the early results are very promising. Conversion rates are relatively low, but have jumped from 0.32% in Q1 2010 to 0.46% in Q1 2011. 

While in Q1 last year, mobile sales accounted for just 0.3% of turnover, in the first quarter this year, this figure was 3.95%. Considering that the site was implemented at a low cost, and just by following some basic mobile commerce best practice guidelines, it proves the value of a mobile strategy. 

The debate over whether retailers should develop a mobile site or app is an interesting one, and it seems the retailers in this study are split more or less down the middle on this issue. 

Slightly more (45%) feel the apps are the most important mobile channel for them, an 40% think mobile sites:

I think a mobile site is perhaps the best first step in a mobile commerce strategy, as they can appeal to the broadest possible customer base, though there are still things that apps can do better, such as barcode scanning. 

Whether retailers have a mobile commerce strategy in place or not, more and more customers are buying smartphones, and many of those will be looking to make purchases.

There is still an opportunity for retailers to launch mobile retail sites and apps, and to gain a head start on competitors in this channel. 

Graham Charlton

Published 14 April, 2011 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (5)


Matt Rhys-Davies

I think that when deciding whether an app or mobile site is the best solution, it's entirely dependent upon the reasons for that company going mobile.

For example a price comparison company will be better off building an app first, as certain features become available (e.g. the barcode scanner you mentioned), whereas a mobile site should follow up secondarily to round off the full offering.

Mobile sites do of course have their place, but the more I think about it, the more an app seems the initial mobile solution, followed by a mobile site.


over 7 years ago

Stephen Thair

Stephen Thair, Director at Seriti Consulting

I think the answer is hidden in E-consultancy's own Christmas stats (

If the Tealeaf stats are to be believed "45% of those who shopped online encountered website problems while doing their Christmas shopping, and 32% abandoned purchases as a result".

So forget m-commerce, mobile-optimised sites or mobile apps... it seems people can't get their NORMAL sites to work properly.

If sites are leaking 32% of "abandoned purchases" (or even if it's 32% of 45% = 14.4%) then the ROI on fixing their existing site FAR FAR outweighs the current ROI on mobile.

My view is that the investment in mobile can only be justified when the "Mobile ROI" > "Site Optimisation ROI".

Right now the ROI returns from usability & conversion rate optimisation, web performance optimisation, SEO optimisation on the existing internet sites still far outweigh mobile (in most sectors) because the number of people converting only is still very low (>8% of smartphone users actually BUY via mobile).

A small increase in conversion rate as a result of multivariate testing or web performance optimisation (e.g. 7% increase in conversion rate for every 1 sec you speed up a web page) on a £500M site like John Lewis would smash any return on mobile.


over 7 years ago


George Chubinidze

Perhaps, the safest bet is to have mobile site followed by app. to get as much exposure as possible. However, if global number of smartphone shipments keeps it pace, it may well be the other way around.

over 7 years ago


Shannon DiGregorio

I think it's really important to look at mobile as the link between e-commerce and in-store shopping experiences. Thoughtfully executed mobile (whether app or web-based) provide a functional bridge to unite these to existing channels.

over 7 years ago

Stephen Thair

Stephen Thair, Director at Seriti Consulting

@Shannon I agree (up to a point).

The smart use of QR codes on facing or swing tickets in-store, for example, could link directly to more detailed product information than could normally be displayed within the restrictions of in-store displays.

But within my personal experience the #1 thing people use their mobile for "in-store" is to compare your price to a competitor... and, by and large, that price comparison is more likely to be supplied by a 3rd party price aggregator like Google Shopping or Kelkoo that it is by individual vendor wesbites.

I think that vendors need to be very careful that their "race for mobile" doesn't quickly become a "race to the bottom" (price) as the well-informed shopper now has direct access to a wealth of pricing information wherever they are...

over 7 years ago

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