More consumers are turning to tablets and smartphones to shop, but this back-to-school season major retailers are using mobile to drive traffic to stores, not necessarily to encourage online transactions.
That's not to say that brick-and-mortar retailers don't allow for purchases in mobile apps -- Walmart, the world's largest retailer, has seeded shopping in its mobile app, as have JC Penney, Target and others. Yet mobile commerce doesn't seem to be a major theme for the back-to-school season. Instead, retailers are using mobile marketing to help customers once they're at physical locations rather than to encourage them to buy through mobile devices.
"By and large, the majority of retailers at the moment are using mobile to add to the in-store experience," said Geoffrey Handley, co-founder of Meredith Corp. mobile agency the Hyperfactory.
Consumers are expressing interest in shopping on mobile devices, especially when it comes to tablets. (Though at this point, it's pretty much an iPad-only game; even Google, whose Android software competes with Apple's, launched its new Catalog app on iPad first.) The National Retail Federation found that nearly 40% of college shoppers and 30% of K-12 shoppers with tablets say they plan to use them to purchase products for school this year. That's a greater percentage than those who said they would use the device to compare prices or conduct product research, according to the survey of more than 8,000 respondents.
But with smartphones, it's a different picture. Consumers are less enthusiastic about making purchases: Nearly 20% of K-12 shoppers and 17% of college shoppers say they will make purchases with their smartphones. But more than 30% in both camps saying they will compare prices with those devices.