The rapid adoption of smartphones and mobile Internet usage is changing the way US consumers shop. Although still nascent, mobile commerce is poised for exponential growth. Mobile retail and travel spending grew by 80% in 2011 and is expected to more than double by the end of this year.
There are various definitions of mobile commerce that include retail, travel, advertising, proximity payments (coming soon), and appdownloads, but Forrester combines retail and travel research with an understanding of mobile consumer habits to build its mobile commerce forecast. Shop.org and Forrester Research administer The State of Retailing Online survey annually to online retailers to understand key metrics in shopping trends; this year's survey focused on mobile commerce and mobile retail execution. Having data from both the consumer and merchant perspectives provides us with a richer understanding of the mobile commerce platform and buying behavior.
Mobile commerce is taking off in Europe. Retail and travel spend via a mobile phone increased by 70% in 2011. Impulse-buying categories that require little intensive research — such as books, computer software and video games, music, videos and DVDs, and event tickets — are driving a large part of these mobile retail sales. Understanding mobile buying behaviors, the evolution of mobile buyers, and relative mobile spend across Germany, the UK, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden are the focus of the Forrester Research Mobile Commerce Forecast, 2012 To 2017 (EU-7), >, and report which has just been published.
The forecast combines insights from the Forrester Research Online Retail Forecast, 2011 To 2016 (Western Europe) with an understanding of smartphone adoption rates and how online buyer sophistication differs from mobile buyer sophistication for each EU-7 country. Smartphone owners are more predisposed to become mobile retail buyers if they have already bought online or if they have already bought mobile apps and digital content. By 2017, mobile retail, travel, and daily deal spend in the EU-7 will rise to €19.2 billion, which will represent 6.8% of online spend. Mobile’s share of total travel spend will be much higher than that seen in retail, as more than 35% of travel bookings for leisure and unmanaged business travel were made online in the EU-7 in 2011.
The consumer appetite for smartphones shows no signs of slowing in 2011 and neither does the growth of the mobile channel at leading retailers. eBusiness leaders, who have been focused on replicating the online store experience on mobile are now turning their attention to new mobile innovations that will not only drive revenue growth for the mobile channel but create an immersive multichannel consumer experience that bridges the gap between online and in-store shopping.
Location-based commerce is one such innovation that is gaining interest among eBusiness leaders responsible for mobile strategy. Some retailers have experimented with third-party location-based services including foursquare and Shopkick to roll out location-aware mobile coupons. A few retailers have innovated further and are developing location services into their own mobile shopping apps beyond the basic "store finder" feature to create new ways to interact with shoppers via their smartphones. With my latest research, Location-Based Commerce: An Evolution In Mobile Shopping, we look at how consumers' mobile shopping habits, location technology available in newer generation smartphones, and mobile push notifications have matured sufficiently to empower a new set of location aware multichannel experiences. Retailers are using geo-fences defined in the vicinity of their brick-and-mortar stores to attract nearby consumers by sending relevant, timely, and location-aware messages to customers' phones.
A recent published report called 'Mobile Coupons: Gold Rush Or Fool's Gold?' shows that both consumers and advertisers are curious about mobile coupons but that few consumers have trialed mobile coupons. Our Technographics data uncovers that only 3% have requested a coupon via cell phone, and only another 3% have actually used a mobile coupon. But mobile coupons help marketers reach new audiences, particularly those consumers ages 18 to 24 — 79% of whom typically spend less than 1 hour per week reading a newspaper. Younger consumers are most interested in mobile offers, especially for restaurants, drinks, and music/DVDs.
Advertisers will need to realize that some consumers — especially younger, new customers — may be mobile-only and that this mobile-only audience requires different promotions to encourage the behavior that merchants seek. Start with campaigns that are close to their heart (or mouth to be more precise) to win them over.
My colleague Julie Ask just published a piece on the reality of mobile coupons in response to questions like “do consumers use mobile coupons?” “should we be developing a mobile coupon offering?” and “what technologies should I adopt to support mobile couponing efforts?” – questions that she and I get asked with some frequency.
I was involved in some of the initial structuring of this report and then also involved in the editing phase. And I would love to recommend it to interactive marketers. Here are the most important takeaways:
Consumers like the promise of mobile coupons, but there is not yet mass adoption. Mobile coupons promise to be a convenient way to aggregate customized discounts all in a single place (your mobile phone) that is much easier for storage than say an envelope of clipped paper coupons.
Mobile coupons appeal to advertisers too, but technology hurdles prevent mass utilization. Advertisers love the idea of being able to offer targeted promotions that are cheaper to deliver and redeem than traditional coupons. But the reality is that scaling redemption technologies and processes at check out is pricey for the limited coupon-using audience today.
Advertisers should start small mobile coupon trials now. Mobile coupons don’t need to be your top marketing priority for 2010 (that honor goes to paid search, display ad, advanced email and social media) but we do recommend now as a good time to start a trial. Vendors like cellfire can outsource the management and distribution of mobile coupons and offer flexible terms in an effort to sign up new advertisers.
This is probably one of the top 10 inquiries I get from clients. Should I have a mobile coupon offering? If so, what form of mobile technology should I use? Our new report, "Mobile Coupons: Gold Rush or Fool's Gold?" addresses this question in more detail. This question was especially important in 2009 with the poor economy as consumers sought savings and deals.
Do consumers use mobile coupons today? A few do. Our surveys show that a few percent have at least trialed mobile coupons. There have been some usability issues - how to opt in to programs, download a coupon application, breadth of offers available - as well as demand. Heavy users of mobile coupons are not necessarily heavy users of mobile data services. My grandmother cuts more coupons than anyone else I know. She has a prepaid 100 minute per month voice plan. Will she ever use mobile coupons? Probably not. She turns 90 this summer. A lot could change in 10 years, but until her arthritis is so bad that she can use scissors, I think she'll still be clipping coupons from the newspaper. I see more opportunities in luring young mobile-savvy cell phone users into opting in for programs.
That said, I'm optimistic. The main reason ... every grocery store and many retailers that I know are using mobile coupons. Target launched a few weeks ago. Target takes providing an amazing guest experience very seriously. When you ask, "are mobile coupons ready for primetime?" Target adopting and rolling them out is a clear "yes" for a leading US brand. Safeway. Best Buy. Krogers. JC Penney. These are just a handful of the companies rolling out mobile coupons. With their marketing power and ability to drive awareness and motivate adoption, I expect we'll see a significant jump in adoption and usage this year.