NRF/Forrester study finds mobile investments pay off in an evolving retail landscape. Amid a seismic shift in how U.S. consumers shop, retailers are vying for time on their customers’ screens across all their devices — before, during and after a purchase. That is according to The State of Retailing Online 2017: Key Metrics, Business Objectives and Mobile report, released by the National Retail Federation’s Shop.org division and Forrester.

Forrester forecasted that in 2016 direct online sales totaled 11.6 percent of total U.S. retail sales ($394 billion), but digital touchpoints actually impacted an estimated 49 percent of total U.S. retail sales.

Mobile shopping behaviors are crucial to retailing. Consider that the latest AudienceSCAN survey showed 78.6% of Americans use smartphones.

In response, this year retailers are focusing on several key areas to enhance customer experiences across all touchpoints, growing their business for the long term. For example, 54 percent of retailers note that mobile is one of their top initiatives in 2017, as are marketing (46 percent), site merchandising (42 percent) and omnichannel efforts (22 percent).

33% of Smartphone Users also use Android tablets at home, according to AudienceSCAN data. And 30% are using iPads.

“Smartphones are driving retail sales more than ever, and retailers have found that even modest investments in mobile initiatives can result in huge returns,” NRF Vice President for Digital Retail Artemis Berry said. “This is no longer a new way to reach customers, but it has certainly become a highly effective method and one that boosts the level of customer engagement across the brand.”

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Among retailers surveyed, smartphones, on average, made up 30 percent of online sales and 47 percent of online traffic, and sales made on smartphones were up an average of 65 percent year-over-year. The study found that most retailers are foregoing flashy emerging technology such as virtual and augmented reality, and instead are investing in customer experience. Forty-five percent of retailers surveyed said mobile initiatives transformed their overall digital customer experience, and customer service topped the list of new initiatives retailers will invest in over the next year, with features like live chat offering them an opportunity to connect with their customers.

A simple click-to-call feature could achieve more engagement. The AudienceSCAN survey revealed 11% of Smartphone Users hit click to call buttons/links (to call a business or have them call them) in the past 6 months.

“Today’s customers are empowered with information and technology,” Forrester Vice President and Research Director Fiona Swerdlow said. “To grow, retailers know they have to operate with a customer-obsessed mindset to deliver the experiences that consumers now expect at every touchpoint. It’s about having all aspects of the business — stores, mobile, merchandising, customer service, fulfillment and more — work together to deliver total value to your customers wherever they are, at any time.”

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.