Teen retailer American Eagle Outfitters is reaching out to its customers where they live: On their cell phones. The Pittsburgh-based company says it is introducing a mobile commerce program, which enables shoppers to browse and buy via phone.
While retailers have been slow to build m-commerce programs, it makes sense for those who serve teens. An estimated 71% of teens now own cell phones and are more likely to use text and browsing functions than are adults.
"Mobile commerce is still in its early stages," says the company in a release, "but as an early adopter of technology and a leading lifestyle brand, it is important to AEO to be among the first to offer it to customers as another way to interact with our brands."
Right now, mobile commerce is in its infancy: Forrester Research reports that while about 52% of Web buyers (online consumers who have made purchases using the Internet) have cell phones with Web-enabled features, only about 14% have ever used their phones to make a purchase without speaking to anyone. And of those purchases, most -- 41% -- are for online content for the phone, such as games or ringtones. Event tickets come next, with 12% of this small group having purchased them. Only 5% have purchased clothing.
Explaining retailers' hesitancy, Sucharita Mulpuru, VP and principal analyst of eBusiness for Forrester, tells Marketing Daily: "It's just a lot of effort to put together a mobile strategy. Too many browsers, too many devices, too much to think about."
Currently, she believes companies that sell travel products, content and music sites, and some food services companies -- such as Domino's pizza -- are furthest along, "and while it's still small relative to the rest of retail, it will probably be $1 billion this year." (Domino's, for example, has made a big impact with its programs.)
American Eagle, which targets kids ages 15 to 25, has had an opt-in SMS texting program in place since November, and says "hundreds of thousands" of customers have opted in so far. Like most specialty apparel companies, AE has been hit hard in the recession: Comparable-store sales fell 10% in August, a key back-to-school month.