Vendor Study: Few -- Very Few -- Retail Brands Are Truly Mobile-Ready

Woman-Red-dressGot a mobile site? Check. App? Double-check. Optimizing for tablets? Well, kinda-sorta. Making the brand experience consistent across platforms? Whoa, wait. Is there a product discovery experience -- and can the visitor make a purchase on a whim? Okay -- wait a sec. Somebody call our mobile agency. Who is our mobile agency, anyway?

According to a study of the top 100 retail brands from mobile developer Zmags, precious few are really post-PC ready. “Only three of these 100 giants -- Gilt Groupe, Disney and Urban Outfitters -- scored well overall and had strong offerings across the board and on all devices,” states their report, “Mobile and Tablet e-commerce: Is anyone Really Ready?” The company worked with HawkPartners to evaluate the top 10 retailers' cross-platform experience across multiple parameters: smartphone and tablet optimization, adaptability to devices, ease of use, brand consistency and product discovery.  

Results were both mixed and uneven. While 68% of the top brands do have dedicated smartphone apps, the study finds that many are reliant on search for product discovery. Only half of these apps allow for purchasing. Mobile Web sites have focused on ease of use, often at the expense of the shopping experience.

Despite the emphasis on mobile Web development, only half of the major retailers offer both apps and a smartphone-optimized site, the study says. The remainder are relying mainly on apps and neglecting the mobile Web. Ironically, Apple itself is cited as an example of a brand focusing on a retail app without having a site that adapts neatly to its own iPhone Safari browser. Only half of the top retailers allow purchasing in iPhone apps, but a mere 25% have purchase paths in Android apps.

The tablet picture is much dimmer. Less than a third of retailers have optimized their sites for these device browsers, although 40% have apps. Only a quarter of retailers have in-app purchasing. Browsing their sites on tablets is fraught with technical glitches and inadequate navigation.  

Zmags is, of course, highlighting the need for its own products and services in these findings. The company lists Neiman-Marcus, Kenneth Cole, Home Depot, Audi and ToysrUs among its clients. Zmags argues that retailers need to evolve beyond the first generation of mobile design, which emphasized “Search and purchase.” Instead it sees an opportunity for retailers to create more immersive shopping experiences that allow for discovery through things like look books, rich media and catalogs. “Offline retailers tend to be zealous about orchestrating an in-store experience that invites inspiration, discovery and purchase. Why are so few making a significant effort to extend that brand experience to the tablet and mobile environment?” the report concludes.  

Zmags CMO Sean Ford states that there is a “serious disconnect” between shoppers' willingness to make purchases on tablets, for instance, and retailers’ preparedness to make the sale. “What we discovered, unexpectedly, was that very few retailers --even among this elite group of marketers -- are tapping into the full shopping potential of mobile and tablet devices,” he says. “In fact, not even close to it.”

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