Mobile – Still a Frontier for Australian Retailers

A new study released in partnership between cloud-based commerce solutions provider NetSuite and industry advocacy group the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) demonstrates both how few retailers are taking mobile consumers seriously, and also the glut of opportunities that remain for those willing to take the plunge.

Conducted by industry research group Frost & Sullivan, the study compares 120 ARA member businesses, specifically focusing on smaller retailers with less than 50 outlets. While this certainly skews the results somewhat, it also serves as a decent barometer for the speed and agility of small to mid-tier retail operations. The survey was carried out in June this year and aimed to discover how these businesses were adapting to the growing use of mobile devices as a regular part of the shopping process.

Unsurprisingly perhaps,  the research reveals that consumer adoption of mobile commerce has risen much more quickly than our local retailers’ abilities to offer a cogent mobile experience.

Less than 30 percent of retailers surveyed currently offer a smartphone-optimised website, while 21 percent have developed a mobile app for their customers. This is contrasted against the fact that 65 percent of the population owns a smartphone, and the use of these devices in commerce has swelled from 38 percent in 2011, to 52 percent in 2014.

The resulting whitepaper, ‘Mobility: The New Opportunity for Australia’s Retailers‘ accurately portrays just how far behind some of our vulnerable retail operations have fallen. However, as the title suggests, it also lights the way to huge growth potential for those that can come to terms with the technology.

“The rapid growth in ownership and usage of smartphones is revolutionising the way that Australian consumers shop,” said Mark Dougan, Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand at Frost & Sullivan. “The ability to access the Internet whilst on the move has transformed many aspects of consumer behaviour. Consumers are increasingly using their smartphones for shopping to research, compare, share, purchase and pay for merchandise.”

Other Highlights of the Study:

  • Almost 40% of consumers that start researching a product on their smartphone end up buying in-store.
  • Smartphones are being used in multiple ways and to varying degrees, with 29% using a smartphone for researching products, 19% for further evaluation and just 4% actually converting on the device. Following that, just 3% will write a review via mobile.
  • The information consumers most want to see on a mobile retail website includes WiFi availability (68%), stock levels (58%), directions to relevant departments (57%), customer reviews (50%), product information (48%) and purchasing (43%).
  • Retailers also cite the following barriers to offering a mobile optimised customer experience: hardware costs, lack of internal resources and the cost/complexity of integrating new systems with legacy systems.

“For years, many merchants have skated by with stripped-down mobile sites and an unsatisfying ‘View Full Site’ escape hatch for advanced tasks,” said Mark Troselj, managing director of APAC and Japan for NetSuite. “This must end in 2014. Mobile buyers won’t tolerate a watered-down experience any longer. It’s time to offer the mobile shopper the complete customer experience, from wish list management to returns.”

This research – as with any research – must be viewed in a somewhat critical light, if only due to the scope and demographic of the sampled businesses surveyed. Certainly, it would be interesting to see how many of the ARA’s members have no physical presence, and whether that particular segment would show any increased capacity for offering a mobile customer experience.

However, what it does reveal is exactly how much the smartphone has become integrated into the in-store environment. Retailers can no longer try to find ways to distract customers from reaching for their phone to garner extra information, instead they should assist them to do so wherever possible, ensuring their mobile experience is not only competitive, but integrates seamlessly with the physical shopping environment.

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