Natural Foods Merchandiser
Why you shouldn’t rush to join the mobile web

Why you shouldn’t rush to join the mobile web

More people use their mobile phones to access the internet, but walk-in traffic or traditional desktop-based shopping still make up the majority of business for natural products retailers. 

Lately it seems we’ve all been barraged with online opinions, workshops and webinar presentations that claim iPhones and Android devices are the wave of the future when it comes to online retail sales.

In fact, as a the natural products business owner or store manager, you might be thinking about your own personal experiences with social media to some degree, and that thinking might lead to a firm belief that the mobile web is the wave of the future and is therefore something in which your business absolutely must invest.

Just like online retail was correctly heralded years ago as a must-do approach to remaining competitive, you might believe that mobile is the next step in that same direction. And you’ve got some data to back up your assumptions.

Everywhere we turn, there’s another vendor, author, expert or article touting the mobile Web. Take our recent article, 5 Easy Ways to Expand Your Facebook Fans, for instance. This well-researched piece references a comScore report from September 2012, which found that four out of every five smartphone users in the United States accessed retail content on their device in July of that year. That figure alone might send you running in the direction of your website designer to demand the company focus more time and resources on mobile web users.

But I’m here today to suggest otherwise.

Has the mobile Web trend affected your business model?

Yes, it’s true that that 63 percent of adult cellphone owners now use their phones to go online—a figure that has doubled since Pew Internet & American Life Project first tracked this in 2009. However, there’s no data whatsoever that suggests online usage of the Internet via a mobile device has resulted in a significant enough increase in retail sales as opposed to the traditional way of selling goods online.

In fact, desktop-based retail e-commerce spending in the U.S. totaled $49.84 billion in the second quarter of 2013, up from $43.15 billion in Q2 2012 and $37.50 billion for the same period in 2011, according to comScore. And while mobile purchases—those made using smartphones and tablets—accounted for $4.7 billion, the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) sector received less than 4.4 percent of that action.

So if I told you that 95.6 percent of your sales came either from walk-in traffic or the traditional desktop-based retail option, I’d bet you dollars to organic gluten-free donuts that you’d spend more than 90 percent of your time and resources on what’s driving your business today and for the foreseeable future.

When should you shift more of your time and energy to mobile? For starters, when the usability of the mobile web improves. While Responsive Web Design (RWD) is a step in the right direction, true innovation is needed in the space to improve the user interface for all mobile users accessing the entire mobile web.

The other signal to look for is one related to security. The fact remains that more than 700,000 high-risk and malicious apps have been distributed on the Android mobile platform this year alone, according to Trend Micro. And that’s a trend that appears to have no end in sight. Do you really want to open your store or company’s IT infrastructure to the perils associated with the millions of consumers who use mobile devices that are already infected with software aimed at gaining access to platforms such as yours? Of course not!

Mind you, I’m not advocating for a mobile-free environment. Potential clearly exists for mobile devices to contribute to your natural products company’s revenue stream. The question you should ask yourself—for now at least—is at what cost?

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