The study, which looks at how the retail industry perceives and uses mobile as a sales and communication tool, also revealed that 40% of those surveyed said they already had an information-led mobile internet site, or were considering building one.
However, 10% were unsure, while half said that a mobile internet site wasn’t part of their growth plan.
The survey showed that retailers considered mobile to be a useful customer communication channel - half said they had used mobile as a direct response channel in television or press advertising campaigns.
60% of these had done so by featuring an SMS code in TV ads, while 20% did so in print magazines and newspapers. The remaining 20% said they were unsure which ad medium they had used mobile as a response mechanism for.
Sponge’s study, which focuses on ten prominent online retailers across sectors including travel, fashion, leisure, catalogues, communications and publishing, showed that overall 70% use mobile to communicate with their customers.
When asked what the main purpose of contacting customers via SMS was, Sponge found that 40% of these use messages to send product information while a further 40% use SMS to send stock alerts and delivery time confirmation. 20% said they inform their customers of special offers.
Of those who don’t currently use mobile to communicate with customers (30%), two thirds intend to start within the next 12 months. The rest said they are not considering using mobile in the future, citing that they had tried it in the past and not seen any benefits.
Although a high number of retailers use mobile to communicate with customers, only 20% currently use ‘m-commerce’ as a transactional sales channel.
“Our survey shows that the use of mobile among retailers is high but the benefits of having m-commerce capabilities are yet to be recognised,” said Jon Beverley, Commercial Director at Sponge. “Recent research by analyst firm Juniper predicts that more than two billion mobile users globally will have made a purchase via their handsets by 2013. A fifth of retailers that took part in our survey already offer customers this capability – the option to make purchases via mobile phones is keeping them ahead of their competitors.”
Sponge’s study revealed that 40% of online retailers said that their transactional websites are mobile friendly, while half of those surveyed said they would be doing so within the next 12 months. 10% said they didn’t know if their website was mobile friendly.
Almost a third (30%) of those questioned felt that the success of mobile and e-commerce were not interlinked, citing that they would find mobile a useful and efficient way of communicating with customers even if they didn’t have an e-commerce site.
However, 50% believe that online and mobile are dependent on each other, with 20% undecided.
Beverley continued: “Something else the research showed was a common misconception that you have to have e-commerce to use mobile successfully – you only have to look at multi-channel retailers who have store footfall to realise this isn’t the case. Retail is a service industry and whether purely online or multichannel, mobile can help inform, manage expectations and reduce the pressure on customer service departments.”
20% of retailers who use mobile to communicate with customers said it had reduced the need for call centre staff. An equal number answered no and 10% didn’t know if this was the case. Not all retailers surveyed had call centres – 50% said this question was not applicable to them.
Almost a third (30%) of those surveyed said that mobile was essential or important for staying in touch with customers. A further 40% agreed, but only if mobile was used as part of a wider communications programme. 30% felt it was unimportant.
Sponge (spongegroup.com) is a creatively-led mobile marketing agency that empowers brands, agencies and media groups to deliver mobile and voice services. An award-winning mobile strategist, Sponge supplies ideas and technology to companies including Vodafone, Northern & Shell, Unilever, News International and Coca-Cola. The company is the owner and developer of the most battle-hardened and versatile mobile applications suite; TG³, which enables clients to deploy mobile services quickly and cost-effectively. In-house developers also create bespoke mobile solutions for global use. Sponge was named one of the Top 50 fastest growing new media companies in the UK for the fourth year running at GP Bullhound’s 2008 Media Momentum awards.