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Social and mobile driving not just e-commerce, but entire retail sector: SMI 2011 spotlight

Submitted by on May 17, 2011 – 9:36 amNo Comment

Online commerce is one of the few bright spots in retail, once again showing it’s the fastest growing segment in the sector. And what’s the fastest growing part of online commerce? It’s a two-part answer: social- and mobile-commerce, new studies once again show.Last week, comScore reported online retail sales in the U.S. topped $38 billion, its best ever quarter and second-straight quarter of double-digit growth. Looking at the table below, you can see that online commerce has really taken off over the past five quarters after a disappointing 2009, a year in which nobody was buying anything (except maybe governments buying up pieces of distressed banks).

ComCast analysts are casting the surge in e-commerce as a counter-cyclical growth story: as gas prices go up, consumers stay home and buy online. Says comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni:

“Faced with rapidly rising gas prices and stubbornly high unemployment, consumers continued to take advantage of the Internet’s lower prices by shifting their spending from offline retail stores. In fact, in the first quarter, the growth in e-commerce spending was roughly double that observed at offline retail. While we would expect online buying to dampen slightly if gas prices continue to eat into discretionary spending, it’s clear that e-commerce has become a mainstay in consumer behavior, driven by the attraction of both lower prices and convenience.”

But that’s only a part of the story. The rise of social commerce, mobile commerce, and, in particular a subset within mobile commerce – tablet commerce – is driving growth. Last week Amazon’s Diego Piacentini told attendees of the Digital Economy Forum that Amazon last year booked $1 billion in sales on mobile and was seeing even greater growth this year. (To learn more about his insights into the importance of mobile commerce read our wrap-up of the event here.)

How big will mobile commerce get going forward? Groupon’s VP Mobile Partnerships Michael Shim told All Things D that it reckons half of all sales will come from mobile within the next few years. Right now, the most popular activity appears to be mobile check-ins, but that’s largely seen as a pre-cursor to sales. Turns out the check-in king Starbucks, is calling itself the “largest mobile payments company” with 8,000 outlets taking payment through m-commerce.

Editor’s Note: We’ll be discussing the future of mobile- and social-commerce at Social Media Influence 2011 on June 14. We’ve assembled an impressive panel that includes Jemima Garthwaite, Social Media lead at Poke (formerly of Groupon); Peter Briffett, MD, Living Social UK, Ireland & Netherlands; Alex Pearmain, Head of Social Media at O2
Matt McAlister, Director of Digital Strategy, The Guardian Media Group and Azeem Azhar of CEO Peer Index. This esteemed panel will take us through the paces of how successful mobile platforms are built and how switched-on, smartphone-savvy consumers are changing the face of retail.

Azeem Azha, CEO Peer Index


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