September 25, 2012, 9:01 AM

Tapping the potential of mobile commerce

Mobile commerce sales will double this year, predicts the 2013 Internet Retailer Mobile 400 Guide. Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the guide, will reach $4 billion in mobile sales this year, Internet Retailer estimates.

Kevin Woodward

Senior Editor

Lead Photo

While many retailers, travel companies and ticketers are making investments in mobile commerce, they have different reasons depending on their businesses for targeting consumers using smartphones and tablets. That’s one finding from the Internet Retailer 2013 Mobile 400 Guide, available today in print and online formats.

The top 400 retailers, travel companies and ticket sellers in mobile commerce will grow their mobile sales to $12.14 billion in 2012, up 101.3% from $6.03 billion in 2011, according to the Mobile 400. The guide is a compendium of mobile commerce research, articles, charts and more that ranks the top 400 players by projected 2012 m-commerce sales.

Add eBay Inc. into the mix and the mobile commerce pot gets much larger. EBay, which is not included in the Mobile 400 because it is a marketplace not a retailer that sells merchandise on its own behalf, projects $10 billion in m-commerce sales this year, double the $5 billion from 2011. The Mobile 400 and eBay combined rack up $22.14 billion in 2012 m-commerce sales.

While a doubling of sales among the Mobile 400 suggests a rapidly growing market, a closer look at the Mobile 400 data shows that sales are highly concentrated. Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the guide, will reach $4.00 billion in mobile sales in 2012, Internet Retailer estimates, and Apple Inc. (No. 2) will hit $1.17 billion in web-only sales of apps, music, video and e-books. Seven other web-only merchants bring plenty to the table, and three of them are flash-sales retailers: Gilt Groupe (No. 13), at $129.6 million; RueLaLa.com (No. 19), $67.5 million; and One Kings Lane (No. 36), $44.0 million. The other four e-retail­ers are Overstock.com (No. 24), $63.1 million; Buy.com Inc. (No. 30), $57.5 million; Newegg Inc. (No. 45), $31.2 million; and Yoox Group (No. 48), $29.7 million. Then there are the TV/ web retailers that have been m-com­merce pioneers: QVC (Liberty Media Corp) (No. 5), $350.0 million; HSN Inc. (No. 14), $110.0 million; and ShopNBC (No. 26), $60.0 million.

That adds up to $6.11 billion, meaning these nine web-only retailers and three TV/web retailers control 50.3% of the Mobile 400’s $12.14 billion in total 2012 sales, not counting eBay. Exclude sales from travel firms and ticket sellers and those 12 merchants account for 69.4% of total mobile retail sales of $8.80 billion.

Why are these dozen companies so successful in mobile while others are holding back? “The mobile story is being driven by a handful of pure-play retailers with unique aspects to their products or business models that carry over well to mobile,” says Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. By “pure-play” she means they don’t operate bricks-and-mortar stores.

Other retailers, however, are investing modestly in mobile commerce, and some have other goals besides sales in mind.

E-commerce is just a part of The Vitamin Shoppe’s business, account­ing for around 10% of the 600-store chain’s sales; and a large percentage of web shoppers are also retail store customers preparing for a store shopping trip, says Scott Anderson, director of e-commerce.

“We built our mobile site for our retail customers,” he says. “If we get some sales from the mobile site, that’s great, but that’s not why it’s there. It is there to offer services like what’s in stock nearby and a store locator. On our e-commerce site, more people leave through the store locator than through checkout—and we have a low cart abandonment rate.” Vitamin Shoppe is No. 177 in the Mobile 400.

The guide dives deep into mobile commerce, revealing that by market, the nine ticket companies in the Mobile 400 boast the largest growth rate, 170.95%, going from $106.32 million in 2011 to $288.08 million in 2012. With 2012 sales of $3.04 billion, the 45 travel companies in the guide experienced a 161.65% growth over the 2011 total of $1.16 billion. By far the largest in total sales, the 345 retailers in the guide grew 85.09% from $4.76 billion in 2011 to $8.81 billion in 2012.

Findings from the Mobile 400 reveal that mobile commerce success varies by product category, too. Mass merchant retailers accounted for 63.00% of m-commerce sales, while those merchants, including Amazon and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., accounted for 41.10% of the e-commerce sales of retailers in the Internet Retailer Top 500 guide, which ranks North American retailers by their web sales.

Computer/electronics merchants had nearly equal shares of 17.00% in m-commerce and 16.00% in e-commerce. Apparel/accessories retailers, too, were close with 11.20% share of m-commerce sales and 12.30% of e-commerce sales.

Among three other categories, e-commerce continues to dominate: food/drug, 0.86% for m-commerce and 2.31% for e-commerce; hardware/home improvement, 0.75% in m-commerce share and 2.42% in e-commerce share; and office supplies accounting for 1.22% of m-commerce sales, but 4.09% in e-commerce sales.

For the first time the Mobile 400 is available in three formats: print, digital and as part of the all-new and completely updated Top500Guide.com. Information on how to order the fully updated 2013 Mobile 400 Guide is available here.

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