Mobile commerce returns tricky for retailers

Mobile commerce technologies are heavily touted, but retailers are likely to struggle with returns. Why? Mobile devices are used more to assist shopping instead of closing a deal.

The move toward mobile commerce, or m-commerce, is way more about information than transactions---at least for now, according to Gartner.

Speaking Sunday at the Gartner Symposium and ITXpo, Gartner analyst Miriam Burt had a presentation on how retail chief information officers should prioritize mobile technologies as a way to drive revenue.

Mobile commerce is a key topic given many tech giants are pitching their wares as a revenue-driving cure. Meanwhile, e-commerce and retail are two areas characterized by a lot of enterprise innovation.

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The biggest takeaway from Burt was that return on investment is tricky for retailers---especially when most consumers aren't going to close a transaction via their mobile devices. The top shopping uses for smartphones revolve around finding stores, checking prices and researching products. As a result, CIOs won't be able to connect revenue directly to mobile.

By 2017, top retailers expect 76.5 percent of sales to come through stores, 14.6 percent via e-commerce and 6.5 percent through mobile, according to a Gartner survey. Overall, mobile is more gateway than sales engine.

Burt noted there are some wins for CIOs chasing mobile as long as technologies map to the customer sales process. Think mobile point of sale terminals being prioritized over payments via smartphones.

Simply put, the chart below indicates that there is no low-hanging ROI fruit with mobile and retailers.

mobile roi gartner chart