April 23, 2012, 4:58 PM

Will smartphones account for most visits to e-commerce sites by 2014?

A new study of the Internet Retailer Top 500 e-retailers suggests the answer is yes.

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Of 49.6 billion visits to the top 500 e-retailers in 2014, 26.4 billion, or 53.2%, will stem from smartphones, predicts mobile commerce technology vendor Branding Brand in a new study. There will be 41.0 billion visits to the top 500 e-commerce sites this year, 10.1 billion, or 24.6%, coming from smartphones, the study predicts.

Branding Brand took the merchants listed in the 2011 edition of the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide and used their 2010 unique monthly visitors as the foundation of the study. Noting 9.3% growth in visitors between 2009—from data in the 2010 edition of the guide—to 2010, the vendor projected 10% growth in unique monthly visitors each year from 2011 through 2015. It then created growth projections for smartphone visits from 2011 through 2015 based on the growth of smartphone visitors to 10 of its clients—large and small chain retailers—that have had m-commerce sites up and running for at least two full calendar years. For these 10 sites, smartphone visits accounted for nearly 4% of total visits in 2010 and more than 13% in 2011.

“There are more devices out there than ever before, more usage of data plans, and more content that is mobile-friendly that makes mobile a relevant experience,” says Chris Mason, co-founder and CEO of Branding Brand. “There is also a usability trend: Consumers are getting more confident and used to the idea of researching products and making purchases on a mobile device. And another trend we’re seeing is digital omnivores—consumers with desktop computers, tablets and smartphones use the Internet more often. This adds up to a consumer who knows more about mobile and is very accustomed to using these devices.”

Following are the total annual visits in billions to the 2011 Top 500 e-retailers, total annual mobile visits in billions, and the percentage of total visits that smartphones account for, according to Branding Brand’s study:

  • 2010, 33.9, 1.3, 3.8%
  • 2011, 37.2, 5.0, 13.4%
  • 2012, 41.0, 10.1, 24.6%
  • 2013, 45.1, 17.6, 39.0%
  • 2014, 49.6, 26.4, 53.2%
  • 2015, 54.5, 33.0, 60.6%

“Retailers need to have a mobile site—but that’s not the complete answer,” Mason says. “They need to study mobile, launch a site to start the studying process, see how consumers interact. Differences in the size of the basket between desktops, tablets and smartphones show that what consumers are willing to buy in these channels changes.”

The increase in mobile traffic has a dramatic in-store implication, too, Mason says. “Mobile is the only online shopping touch-point you can bring with you offline. The question is, how do you better serve customers with mobile devices in stores?” he says. “You need to be there studying to see how this affects your brand. In today’s highly mobile environment, you have to follow your consumers as they change right in front of you.”

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