Browsers Beat Out Apps for M-Commerce

The FINANCIAL — Apps aren’t always the answer to engaging with consumers on mobile devices—especially when it comes to m-commerce.

According to research from rich media company Zmags, very few Americans prefer to use mobile apps for shopping activities. Instead, consumers strongly prefer purchasing through web and mobile browsers.

When Zmags surveyed US consumers who owned a PC or laptop computer about their shopping methods, 87% said they preferred using websites and mobile sites, compared to 14% who most liked shopping from websites via smartphone and just 4% who preferred to shop using mobile or tablet apps.Although smartphone and tablet owners display a preference for browser-based mobile purchases, a significant number of US retailers have created mobile apps that enable commerce activities.

Survey data from mobile-shopping company AisleBuyer showed in December 2011 that 19% of US retailers had a mobile app to connects consumers to their ecommerce site.Retail apps may be of greater value to smartphone users, for whom the browsing experience is more limited in nature. There’s also opportunity for tablet commerce apps to provide a more catalog-style approach, giving users more interactive features.

Meanwhile, the tablet commerce category as a whole is growing significantly. According to Zmags, during the 2011 holiday shopping season, 87% of tablet owners used their device for shopping. Not only do users report better buying experiences than with smartphones, but tablet owners are using their devices frequently for m-commerce.

According to Zmags, half of tablet owners are using tablets for shopping on at least a weekly basis.eMarketer projects that m-commerce sales will grow more than fourfold over the next few years, from $6.7 billion in 2011 to $31 billion in 2015. If consumers continue to prefer browsers over mobile apps for shopping, retailers should consider investing more in mobile-optimized ecommerce sites. Moreover, marketers should consider designing engaging, tablet-specific ecommerce experiences for tablet users.