September 12, 2012, 12:12 PM

Retailers are taking a measured approach to mobile investments

However, they do plan to spend nearly 300% more on tablet initiatives this year.

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When it comes to mobile commerce investments, retailers are taking a measured approach, a new study from Shop.org and Forrester Research Inc. finds. Half of the retailers polled in the organizations’ 2012 State of Retailing Online survey say they spent less than $100,000 on smartphone investments in 2011 and 74% spent that amount on tablets.

The survey of Shop.org’s 600 members, including the 10 largest retailers in the U.S. and more than 60% of the top 100 e-retailers in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, finds that retailers’ mobile plans remain conservative for this year. However, retailers do plan to grow their investments in tablets to spend an average of $207,000 on mobile commerce initiatives for the devices, up 276% compared with the average $55,000 for 2011.   

“It’s easy to forget that mobile retailing is still in its infancy, and unlike what we saw with e-commerce 10 short years ago, mobile is almost entirely consumer-driven,” says Shop.org executive director Vicki Cantrell. “As mobile grows, so too will retailers’ investments in technologies that make sense for their shoppers, but to get to that level of commitment, retailers must first take smart, calculated steps to maximize the mobile shopping experience both now and in the future.”  

In addition to investing more in tablets, the poll finds that more retailers overall are venturing into mobile commerce initiatives. 9% of companies polled say they will make no investments for tablets or smartphones in 2012, down from 18% who say they did not invest in tablets last year and 14% who did not put resources into smartphones in 2011.

Of the retailers who are spending time, money and resources on mobile, a good portion are extending their investments to stores. For example, 57% of retailers say they have or will have mobile checkout options in their stores within the next two years.

When it comes to challenges to deploying and managing their mobile initiatives, 60% of retailers say their business objectives for mobile initiatives are unclear and 40% note a lack of in-house expertise in such mobile projects as designing for smartphones and tablets. Additionally, 36% say getting a budget to complete mobile projects is a concern.

“While consumers are rapidly adopting smartphones and tablets, and there is no shortage of companies eager to provide mobile offerings to retailers, retail executives are taking a measured view of the immediate benefits of these efforts—in part because of the myriad of challenges that must be considered when investing in mobile for their company,” says Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

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