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Chico’s Brands Latest To Connect Via Mobile As Research Points To Growth For Channel

Looking to connect with consumers via a fourth channel, Chico’s Brands recently launched a mobile commerce strategy for its destinations White House Black Market and Soma.

Powered by Usablenet, the mobile web sites are now optimized for any mobile phone.The sites are designed to enable customers to find product information, search nearby store locations and complete purchases instantly via the mobile phone.

Shoppers can also complement their in-store experience by locating and buying items (or sizes) that aren’t available at that location or even browse additional products via smartphone to compare with what they’re trying on in the dressing room.

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The Chico’s launch comes as new research indicates that the mobile channel is poised for serious growth in the coming year. Mobile subscribers will surpass five billion this year, moving the mobile Internet closer to overtaking the PC as the most popular way to get on the web, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Additionally, the Coda Research Consultancy reports that U.S. mobile commerce sales hit $1.20 billion in 2009 and will grow to $2.42 billion this year.

Despite this rapid growth, a new survey by SLI Systems of more than 400 online retailers shows that the majority (80%) of e-commerce companies surveyed do not have m-commerce strategies in place. SLI Systems is a provider of on-demand, intelligent search services for Internet and e-commerce sites

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The survey found that 83% of e-commerce organizations say between 1-10% of visitors come to their sites from mobile browsers. In addition,12% cite that 11-20% get to their sites through the mobile web.  These numbers are anticipated to grow rapidly, as Gartner anticipates over 85% of new handsets to be able to access the mobile web by 2011.

“This represents a significant opportunity for companies that have optimized their sites for mobile use, and also shows that many retailers are still in wait-and-see mode,” said Shaun Ryan, CEO of SLI Systems. “With such rapid growth expected in mobile commerce, online retailers that are preparing now for the influx of new business the mobile web represents stand to benefit significantly.”

While many online retailers may be slow to adopt m-commerce, most recognize the opportunity and plan to address it in the near future. Fifty-six percent (56%) believe a mobile commerce strategy is very important or important to their overall business and 38% say it is important for driving sales. The majority (70%) plans to embark on an m-commerce strategy within the next two years. The lack of urgency in establishing an m-commerce business may be attributed to the fact that most e-commerce organizations don’t believe it will significantly affect their sales in the near future. Only thirty-eight percent (38%) of those polled believe m-commerce will be somewhat important to their holiday campaigns this year, while 62% say it will not be important.

Making a Case for Mobile
Of those polled, 79% say site search is important to a mobile website strategy and 61% are confident site search capabilities on a mobile site will generate additional conversions. The top four features online retailers cite as the most important to enhancing the m-commerce experience are navigation (73%), site search (59%), product pages (54%) and product reviews (40%).

Fifty-one percent (51%) of e-commerce companies do not consider the iPad to be a mobile device (they say iPad users can utilize their current website); yet 31% will direct iPad to their mobile site. Only 18% of e-commerce organizations have developed shopping apps for platforms including iPhone, Android, iPad and BlackBerry, while 50% are planning on creating apps, but don’t currently have one; and 29% are not planning on creating apps at all.

The “2010 Mobile Commerce Survey” was conducted online by Zoomerang on behalf of SLI Systems. The poll, which gathered feedback from 419 e-commerce business managers and executives globally, was conducted from May 24 to June 1, 2010.

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