March 10, 2011, 9:47 AM

U.S. leans toward m-commerce sites, Europe toward apps, Top 300 Europe shows

The big question is: Why the imbalance?

Lead Photo

U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer, No. 21 in the Top 300 Europe, offers an m-commerce site on which shoppers can browse, search and buy.

22% of retailers in the Internet Retailer Top 500 report having a mobile commerce site or app. That’s 110 out of 500. Only around half of retailers with m-commerce sites have mobile apps, Internet Retailer research shows.

In Internet Retailer’s new book, the Top 300 Europe, 19.6%—59 out of 300—report having an m-commerce site and 24.6%—74 out of 300—report having a mobile app.

So U.S. retailers have more m-commerce sites than apps, while European retailers have more mobile apps than sites. Why is this the case?

“Most likely due to the rapid surge of smartphones in Europe—almost one in three European Union mobile subscribers now owns a smartphone, up from one in five just last year,” says Tom Nawara, vice president of digital strategy and design at consulting and research firm Acquity Group LLC, which conducted the m-commerce research for the Top 300 Europe.

All smartphones and most feature phones can access the web, and thus m-commerce sites. But smartphones run apps, and smartphone owners have a tremendous hunger for apps.

“European Union retailers seem to be more concerned with brand awareness and riding the app cachet wave than implementing transactional mobile sites,” Nawara says. “But we will see things evolve to more robust and transactional mobile sites—as well as additional apps—in the next 12 to 18 months.”

The situation is different stateside because merchants here are more concerned with what apps cannot do, Nawara adds.

“Most U.S. retailers understand the current limitations of apps, such as cross-platform differences, and have opted to instead focus on the commonalities and efficiencies of the mobile web in order to drive transactions,” he says. “In addition, U.S. retailers are banking on the familiarity consumers have with the retailers’ traditional sites, rather than the new experience of an app, as a bridge to mobile web conversions.”

But this imbalance between the U.S. and Europe may change in the near future, especially as smartphone penetration greatly increases in the U.S.

“We’ll see both geographic regions migrate toward a more evenly balanced approach in the coming year,” Nawara says, “with the maturation of cross-platform app development solutions helping to lead the way in the U.S., and the European Union retailers’ realization that a large smartphone base also allows for robust mobile web capabilities.”

To order a copy of the Top 300 Europe, click here.

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