June 4, 2014, 5:48 PM

Mobile revenue is up 111% for 26 retailers as mobile traffic nears 50%

Everything’s looking up in a May 2014 study by Branding Brand of 26 of its retailer clients. The vendor says the mobile-first philosophy has never been more relevant.

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These days in online retailing, the only direction anything mobile is headed is up. Mobile commerce technology provider Branding Brand in May studied the m-commerce activity of 26 of its more than 200 retailer clients. These 26 retailers generated $375 million in sales stemming from smartphones and tablets in May. Following are percentage increases May 2014 over May 2013 on smartphones and on tablets, respectively:

  • Visits, 69.4%, 31.8%.
  • Page views, 85.5%, 32.0%.
  • Orders, 98.2%, 28.2%.
  • Revenue, 111.3%, 22.8%.

Other metrics further illustrate how fast mobile commerce is growing. In May 2013, 64.9% of visits were from desktops, 22.4% from smartphones and 12.7% from tablets, Branding Brand says. In May 2014, the corresponding figures were 51.8% desktop, 33.4% smartphone and 14.8% tablet.

Similarly, in May 2013, 79.4% of orders were desktop, 7.5% were smartphone and 13.1% were tablet, Branding Brand reports. In May 2014, 72.2% of orders were desktop, 13.1% smartphone and 14.7% tablet. Further, in May 2013, 81.3% of revenue came from desktop, 5.0% from smartphone and 13.7% from tablet. In May 2014, 76.1% of revenue stemmed from desktop, 9.3% from smartphone and 14.6% from tablet.

So mobile’s share of total web revenue grew 27.8% year over year while total mobile revenue grew 111%. What’s more, shoppers on smartphones and tablets accounted for 48.2% of total traffic in May, up from 46.8% in April, Branding Brand says.

“If mobile will be responsible for the majority of traffic, retailers need to stop treating mobile like a minority—traditional desktop rules no longer apply,” says Chris Mason, CEO and co-founder of Branding Brand. “In fact, the mobile-first philosophy has never been more relevant. For example, in addition to our work with smartphones, Branding Brand has built more than 20 tablet sites, and many of our retailer clients like their tablet sites so much, they're now asking if we can redesign their desktop sites. This turns the traditional web design model on its head.”

While building separate sites specially optimized for smartphones and tablets is the most common approach to m-commerce today, the web design technique known as responsive design is growing in popularity. Responsive design enables a retailer to build one site using one code base and one set of web content; the single site adapts to fit the size of a screen on a device requesting a page, be it a desktop, smartphone, tablet or smart TV. Click here to read the February 2014 Internet Retailer magazine cover story on retailers pioneering the use of responsive design.

The Branding Brand data from May 2014 show that consumers are using their smartphones a lot to shop; but at 0.98%, the conversion rate on smartphones remains relatively low. The conversion rate for tablets is 2.5% and for desktops 3.5%, Branding Brand says. But retailers must not judge smartphones purely by conversion rate, and they must keep an eye on developing technologies that might change the equation for buying goods on smartphones, Mason says.

“As the customer journey becomes more complex, it is important to realize that smartphone usage is not simply a mobile means to a mobile end: Smartphone usage is also a mobile means to an in-store end,” Mason says. “Mobile influence on retail purchasing is massive; so, just because someone visits a retailer’s site on a smartphone and doesn’t convert, it doesn’t mean they won’t purchase. Our work with beacon technology, tracking shoppers with smartphones via Bluetooth in stores, is finally starting to prove this by connecting shoppers’ multiple actions when engaging with a retailer.”

Mason also says technologies like Apple Inc.’s Touch ID biometric fingerprint scanner, which Apple just opened to developers with the announcement of its iOS 8 mobile operating system, can change the face of smartphone shopping. Retailers and m-commerce vendors could potentially use biometrics to enable one-touch checkout, vastly reducing the friction in mobile checkout.

“Apple’s Touch ID could dramatically impact mobile purchasing,” Mason says. “At the end of the day, anything that simplifies the buying process will improve mobile conversion. For example, we recently removed half of the optional fields on a client’s checkout page, and it improved submission by 22%.”

Follow Bill Siwicki, managing editor, mobile commerce, at Internet Retailer, at @IRmcommerce.

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