April 18, 2011, 4:12 PM

50% of mobile phone owners use their devices to shop, Leo Burnett says

A new report offers some key findings for merchants into mobile.

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50% of U.S. mobile phone owners use their devices to shop online or to assist while shopping in stores, finds a new report from Arc Worldwide, advertising agency Leo Burnett’s marketing services arm. M-commerce is quickly and decisively changing the traditional shopping experience and posing  a serious ultimatum to merchants: deliver valuable mobile experiences or risk losing customers, the report contends.

“Mobile shopping has created multiple paths to purchase,” says William Rosen, president and chief creative officer of Arc Worldwide. “It has completely transformed the way people research and purchase products. Companies looking to crack the ‘mobile code’ must understand shoppers’ unique demands by category and shopper type.”

The report, “Marketing to the Mobile Shopper,” surveyed 1,800 U.S. mobile phone owners and identifies some key findings Arc Worldwide says merchants should note when implementing mobile shopping strategies.

First, merchants should know there are different kinds of mobile shoppers with varying demands. “Heavy” mobile shoppers are attached to their devices and enjoy experimenting with new apps, while “light” mobile shoppers view m-commerce as inferior to e-commerce and only use mobile for such activities as looking up store hours or using GPS to locate a store, the report says.

“While the majority of recent retail and brand mobile efforts have focused on the needs of heavy mobile shoppers, we learned this group is actually quite small, about 11% of mobile phone owners,” says Molly Garris, digital strategy manager at Arc Worldwide. “There’s a new group of phone owners, light mobile shoppers, whose needs are not being met. Brands often ask me if they should build a mobile web site or mobile app. With these very different types of mobile shoppers, the answer is both.”

But as light shoppers become more familiar with their mobile devices, they will evolve into heavy mobile shoppers, she adds. What’s more, she says, by engaging light mobile shoppers early, with simple solutions, merchants will engender customer loyalty in the future.

On another note, marketers need to create relevant mobile interactions that are in tune with consumers’ day-to-day lives, the report says. This boils down to on-the-go shopping. A customer might be using their phone to shop while waiting to pick up the kids after school, commuting home on a train, or sitting in a waiting room at a doctor’s office. One thing is certain, most m-commerce experts say, customers want speed and ease.

Additionally, mobile shoppers may be in one of those situations, or be standing in a retail store. They may want to buy a new DVD in just a few taps, or they may want more information and customer reviews on an outfit they’re perusing in a fashion store. To reach all types of mobile shoppers, Arc Worldwide says, merchants should address the needs of both customers who are in stores and those on the go.

“Mobile gives companies the power to market in a way that no channel ever has before by uniting the power of digital, promotion, retail and database marketing,” Rosen says. “From researching and browsing to buying and recommending, shoppers expect meaningful and useful mobile shopping experiences. The stakes are only getting higher as more and more shopping moves onto mobile.”

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