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Forbes Insights study examines how top U.S. chains are approaching the mobile consumer

As consumers are starting to look to their smartphones for an enhanced shopping experience, leading U.S. retailers are hoping to capture first-mover advantage in the growing mobile channel, according to a new study released today by Forbes Insights.

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Forbes Insights study examines how top U.S. chains are approaching the mobile consumer

Retail's Mobility Imperative: A Measured Approach to the Emerging Channel, sponsored by Research In Motion (RIM), developers of the BlackBerry wireless solution, is based on an exclusive survey of more than 300 executives at leading U.S. retailers. The study found that nearly three out of four (73%) retailers now have some type of mobile initiative in place, and another 20% are in the process of evaluating the mobile channel. Almost half (47%) of the retailers surveyed said their approach to the mobile channel was being driven by a desire to capture "first-mover advantage" and help them increase their engagement with mobile customers.

"The ubiquity of mobile devices is changing how retailers interact with their customers," said Stuart Feil, editorial director of Forbes Insights. "The study shows that retailers are eager to take advantage of the power that smartphones put in consumers' pockets and purses. Still, these retail chains are facing challenges in creating cohesive, integrated strategies in this fast-moving marketplace."

Among the key findings from Retail's Mobility Imperative are:

*     Satisfaction and loyalty are foundational to many retailers' mobile strategies; their mobile channel efforts are being driven primarily by their desires to improve customer service (37%) and enhance customer loyalty (36%)
*     Mobile application development will shift over the next year. Today, customer service (59%) and product availability (55%) are the top apps. A year from now, personalization (55%) and phone-enabled loyalty programs (53%) will lead the way.
*     Mobile initiatives will be getting a bigger share of retailers' marketing budgets in the next three years. Today, 66% of respondents said mobile gets less than 10% of their marketing budget, and just 8% say it makes up 20% or more of spend. In three years, however, 31% said mobile will get less than 10% of marketing dollars, and 31% say it will get 20% or more.
*     A good deal of focus is being placed on integrating mobile initiatives with physical stores, websites, and other sales and service channels. Today, just 13% of retail respondents said mobile was fully integrated with these channels, but 40% expect full integration a year from now.
*     Retailers are seeing a solid return on their mobile channel investments; 62% say their mobile channel returns are either exceeding (17%) or meeting (45%) expectations.

Retail's Mobility Imperative is based on a survey of 305 executives at leading U.S. retailers, with 27% having c-level titles, and 49% being executive vice president, vice president, or director. All retail companies surveyed had multiple locations and annual revenues of $100 million or more. They represented the following retail segments: specialty soft goods such as apparel, footwear, and furnishings (20%); specialty hard goods, including electronics, hardware, and office supplies (29%); department stores (10%); chain stores, mass merchandisers, and discounters (19%); supermarkets and drug stores (11%); and other retail (10%).

The study also features profiles of the mobile efforts of top retail brands, including Target, American Eagle Outfitters, 7-Eleven, and K&L Wine Merchants.The study can be downloaded at: http://www.forbes.com/forbesinsights/retailmobility

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