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Smartphones leading online sales

12 Jan 2016

The smartphone is officially leading the pack in drivers of sales and traffic for retailers, as a shift in investments by technology firms and continued optimisation from retailers shake things up.

According to a new report, State of Retailing Online 2016, conducted by, Forrester Research and Bizrate Insights, mobile as a percentage of both online sales and traffic is now led by smartphones and not tablets.

Specifically, retailers surveyed report smartphone sales accounted for 17% of their total online sales in 2015, edging ahead of the 14% generated via tablets.

Overall, retailers said sales from smartphone devices grew 53% over the previous year, while sales from tablet devices grew 32%. 

However, the report reveals retailers are continuing to keep their mobile investments at a more moderate level. Thirty percent of those surveyed say they invested less than $10,000 on smartphone platforms in 2015, and 17% kept budgets between $10,000 and $50,000.

When it comes to tablets, the investments are even smaller. Nearly four in ten (37%) said they made no additional investment in their tablet offerings in 2015, compared to 18% who left smartphones out of their investment plans for 2015; 11% of retailers surveyed said they put $10,000 to $50,000 into tablet investments last year.

“Retailers are now recognising that their customers may not need a bigger, more expansive shopping experience on mobile platforms – they need a consistent, relevant and user-friendly experience that will shape their online and in-store shopping behaviours,” explains NRF senior vice president and executive director Vicki Cantrell.

“Even with relatively small investments in their mobile initiatives, retailers are seeing tremendous growth in both sales that come from smartphones and the level of customer engagement from mobile across the brand,” she says.

“Retailers are building their mobile platforms with strong customer engagement strategies in mind, allowing their shoppers to easily ‘click and buy’ or research in-store availability,” says Cantrell.

“For today’s consumer, this is all just a part of modern-day shopping; though for retailers, it’s a constant balance of where and how much to invest into the mobile experience and infrastructure.”

The report also found more mobile investment is on the horizon for retailers. And, it’s clear smartphones are where retailers have earmarked this investment.

The survey found that one-third of retailers surveyed plan to grow their smartphone investments more than 20% in 2016, and another 34% will grow their investments between 1 and 20%. One in five (22%) will grow their tablet investment more than 2% in 2016.

Sucharita Mulpuru, Forrester vice president and principal analyst adds, “It’s the age of the customer and retailers need to be wherever shoppers are when they’re browsing and buying.

“It’s essential to provide value on those devices and in those moments, which are often in stores,” Mulpuru says.

 “While mobile phones still represent promise, savvy retailers will be leveraging mobile with their customers to positively influence in-store sales as well.”

Furthermore, tablets may ultimately find a bigger purpose in stores, helping store associates provide greater service to customers.

The survey found that of the 36% who use mobile devices in stores, one-quarter of those use tablets. Two in five (44%) say their associates use tablets to show additional products not available in stores and four in ten use the devices to send e-receipts; 23% use them to check inventory in warehouses and 21% use tablets to check their actual in-store inventory.

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