Mobile Retailers Optimistic About Industry, But Not About Their Businesses

Link to the original article.

Published in: Channel Insider

Date: Friday, Nov. 182011

By Chris Talbot

A new survey shows that both Android-based phones and Apple’s iPhones will continue to dominate the smart phone market while Apple’s iPad continues to be the dominant force in tablets.

Even as the proliferation of smartphones and tablets continues, retailers selling mobile devices are concerned about the future of their businesses. With high turnover rates for sales associates and an ever increasing number of ways for consumers and business professionals to research and purchase mobile phones, mobile retailers are worried about the future of their businesses.

The Seventh Annual iQmetrix State of Wireless Industry Survey asked 34 questions of 158 mobile retail businesses about the mobile industry and the state of their own businesses, and although there is plenty of optimism for the growth of the mobile industry over the next five years, the number of stores in the market may hit a point of over-saturation. Although many retailers still have plans for growth, that growth will by way of more sales through existing storefronts rather than adding storefronts.

Improving the in-store experience is extremely important in 2012, and the two main things there are improving employee training and improving store design. There is belief in the growth of the industry and plans to expand their businesses,” said Anne Weiler, vice president of iQmetrix, a 10-year-old software company specializing in ERP, POS and interactive retail software for the wireless retail industry.

When survey respondents were asked which companies in the industry were showing the most innovation, Google came as the number one answer (75 percent of respondents cited Google), with Apple (18 percent) following second. As the consumerization of IT continues and more employee-owned devices are connected to the corporate network, this may speak volumes about what devices and mobile operating systems IT departments and channel partners will have to support going forward.

Apple has played a dominant role in the tablet industry with the iPad, and it has also made strong inroads into the smartphone market with the various versions of the iPhone, but as Google continues to expand its open-source Android platform, industry analysts expect Google to gain a lot of ground on its main competitor. According to a recent Gartner report, Apple currently dominates the tablet market with 73.4 percent market share, and Android has only gained slightly since last year, with 17.3 percent market share. Gartner’s forecast shows Apple still as the market share leader through to 2015, but Android will have gained considerably

In the smartphone realm, feature phones are still outselling smartphones. Smartphones currently have a 35 percent market penetration, but mobile retailers expect to see their smartphone sales increase in 2012. According Weiler, smartphones are at the point where 70 percent of smartphone buyers in 2012 will be first-time buyers. Some retailers actually expect their feature phone sales to be negligible next year. (If IT departments don’t yet have a mobility strategy, now might be the time to start putting one in place. Smartphones are going to become even more common.)

Additional highlights from the iQmetrix survey include:

Respondents indicated 4G, mobile broadband growth beyond traditional devices, and continued growth of tablets and mobile payments as important trends and technologies in the future.
Mobile retailers will be investing more heavily in mobile payments, digital signage, interactive retail and location-based advertising in 2012.
Almost 70 percent of respondents believe the industry will continue to grow over the next five years.
Online shopping and mobile purchase research has increased customer awareness but decreased their patience for in-store experiences. Consumers have become disenchanted with traditional brick-and-mortar retail.
According to 55 percent of respondents, consumers are now more informed about mobile products than their own employees.