Because mobile often is the only way a consumer can shop a retailer due to location or circumstance, retailers better be awfully sure their sites and apps are optimized to convert, a mobile expert warns.

In the new mobile economy, many U.S. consumers’ home desktop PCs are fossils gathering dust as these consumers rely almost entirely on smartphones and tablets to access the Internet. In fact, 10% of U.S. Internet users only access the Internet on mobile devices, according to new January 2015 data from comScore Inc., an Internet and mobile measurement firm.

And there are more mobile-only shoppers than mobile-only Internet users: 13% of Internet users accessing retail destinations (sites and apps) only use mobile devices to do so, comScore finds.

What’s even more intriguing is the percent of mobile-only shoppers at the top 10 retailers. Following are the retailers (from 1 to 10), total digital unique monthly visitors (in millions) in January 2015, and the percentage of total visitors that only shop the retailers on smartphones and/or tablets, according to comScore:

  • Inc., 180, 38%
  • eBay Inc., 122, 44%
  • Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 83, 51%
  • Apple Inc., 79, 59%
  • Netflix Inc., 68, 29%
  • Target Corp., 50, 53%
  • Best Buy Co. Inc., 36, 46%
  • Ticketmaster, 33, 59%
  • QVC Group, 28, 53%
  • Kohl’s Corp., 28, 48%

Apple skews high because of the enormous number of Apple customers who make purchases in the App Store, iTunes and other digital properties on their iPhones and iPads. QVC skews high because it and most TV retailers have been pioneers in mobile commerce primarily because many of their customers are sitting in front of TVs with their mobile devices in hand. Ticketmaster skews high because tickets offer a business model especially suitable for mobile commerce—a straightforward product and checkout, with a product that increasingly winds up stored on a smartphone (a mobile ticket).

Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy and Kohl’s all are giant chain retailers where consumers increasingly are using smartphones as personal shopping assistants in stores. And that leaves three web-only merchants: Amazon and eBay, which were very early innovators in m-commerce that today offer popular, rich and easy-to-use apps, and Netflix, which is by far the merchant among the top 10 with the lowest percentage of mobile-only shoppers (29%).


Although mobile-only shoppers represent a significant percentage of individual retailers’ audiences, only one in eight digital shoppers overall are mobile-only, says Andrew Lipsman, vice president of marketing and insights at comScore.

“Most consumers use both desktop and mobile for commerce—which channel they use depends on time, location, occasion and retailer,” Lipsman says. “But because mobile often is the only channel by which a shopper might engage with a retailer, it is of critical importance that mobile apps and mobile sites be optimized for conversion.”

Follow Bill Siwicki, editor of the 2015 Internet Retailer Mobile 500 and editor, mobile, at Internet Retailer, at @IRmcommerce and at @MobileInsiderBS.