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.