September 27, 2013, 11:59 AM

Top European retailers double their mobile sales

The top 10 European retailers in the Mobile 500 represent half of sales.

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European retailers aren’t selling nearly as much as their U.S. counterparts to shoppers using smartphones and tablets, but their mobile sales are growing rapidly, according to data published in Internet Retailer’s 2014 Mobile 500.

While U.S. retailers in the Mobile 500 are projected to grow their mobile sales 64% this year to $34.2 billion, the 107 European mobile merchants ranked in the Mobile 500 will only rack up $4.44 billion in mobile sales in 2013. But that’s a 103% growth rate from $2.19 billion in 2012, faster than the growth of U.S. mobile merchants.

The biggest merchants are leading the way, with the 10 largest European Mobile 500 merchants accounting for about half, $2.2 billion, of total sales for European retailers in the Mobile 500. Those 10 retailers are: Vente-Privee.com (No. 6), Shop Direct Ltd. (No. 7), Ocado Ltd. (No. 8), Otto Group (No. 13), Next Plc (No. 15), J Sainsburys Plc (No. 19), Tengelmann (No. 20), Kering (No. 22) and YOOX Group (No. 23).

A prime example of a big European web merchant making mobile commerce a central part of its e-commerce strategy is Shop Direct Group. “Mobile commerce is a big part of reinventing ourselves as a retailer that wants to engage customers anytime and anywhere,” says Jonathan Wall, group e-commerce director since 2010. “Mobile is making us relevant to new groups of shoppers.”

That’s a big shift for Shop Direct, a nearly 90-year-old direct marketer of apparel, accessories and home furnish­ings that generates $2 billion a year in sales from such well-known U.K. brands as Littlewoods and Woolworths. Just three years ago, the retailer had only a basic e-commerce site and no strategy to attract consumers in their 20s, 30s and 40s who were shopping online using the mobile web and apps. With its sales plateauing, Shop Direct in 2010 refocused the company’s strategy squarely on trendier e-commerce sites for clothing and accessories and mobile commerce sites to reach a broader range of shoppers.

Today, Shop Direct generates nearly $400 million in annual mobile sales, roughly 20% of its online sales, up from virtually nothing in 2010. Over three years, mobile traffic to Shop Direct from smartphones and tablets has grown from practi­cally nothing to around 3 million monthly visits and now accounts for about 40% of all traffic. “Mobile is at the core of our e-commerce strategy and the key area where we see substantial potential for growth,” Wall says.

Prior to the launch of m-commerce and with only a rudimentary e-commerce program, Shop Direct’s core shopper was primarily a woman who liked shopping print catalogs and submitting orders by phone and through the mail. But today with new e-commerce sites, such as Very.co.uk, which Shop Direct launched in 2009 as a digital department store featuring designer brands from well-known British celeb­rities, the company is using mobile to reach an entire new generation of younger shoppers while also appealing to older tablet shoppers.

In 2011 Shop Direct launched a mobile-optimized version of Very.co.uk, a move that quickly netted a big jump in traffic. Using its Very brand as a base, Shop Direct has added multiple mobile commerce sites and apps for its other brands such as Isme, which targets mature, fashion-conscious apparel shoppers, and Littlewoods, another women’s apparel brand. Shop Direct’s online retailing program today includes an even bigger emphasis on mobile commerce, Wall says. Shop Direct has updated its mobile commerce sites with easier navigation that features more prominent department listings and daily deals. Mobile product pages also fea­ture larger photos and product zoom, customer reviews, and videos. “Now more than ever customers are moving faster than retailers and we plan to be the best at keeping up,” Wall says.

Other big European merchants also are making headway in mobile commerce, according to the Mobile 500. By the end of the year, Otto Group, which expects to grow mobile sales 55% to $236.2 million in 2013, will have built a mobile commerce site for about 80 of its more than 100 e-commerce brands, the company says. About 50 e-commerce sites also have been optimized for iPads and other tablet computers. In March, Otto rolled out a new internally designed iPad app with easier navigation, better images, video and other direct features. “Whatever shopping mood the customer is in, the app provides an optimal solution,” says Otto vice president of e-commerce, innovation and platform Thomas Schnieders. “In our new iPad app we see an ideal sales opportunity, fully in harmony with the concept of ‘everywhere commerce.’”

More data and analysis on how merchants around the world are launching or expanding their mobile commerce programs is available in the 2014 Mobile 500. The research publication is available in three formats: print, digital and as part of the all-new and completely updated Top500Guide.com. Information on how to order is available here.

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