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According to an eMarketer report out today, 80 percent of retailers still don’t have a mobile product or marketing channel. This isn’t terribly surprising given that we’re still in the early days of mobile marketing, and it’s still very much “experimental” for lots of businesses.

But with escalating excitement and investment in mobile, the retail segment has perhaps the most to gain. This comes down to user behavior and buying intent when out and about. It’s clear that the Web exerts increasing influence on offline buying (see chart below), while the growth of the mobile Web shortens the physical distance between the media and the store shelf.

This is especially true among younger generations that are turning to the mobile device to stay connected. But even though many retailers don’t have branded apps or mobile Web sites, there are still third-party apps out there like Google and theFind, which are aggregating mobile product search and inventory data.

The growing mobile bar-code scanning segment also comes into play here. And it could be an even greater reason for retailers to speed up their branded mobile products. Finding cheaper items online or at other stores is one of the core use cases of bar-code scanning apps like RedLaser (just acquired by eBay), ShopSavvy and Scanbuy.

Having a branded app could be a way to preempt some of these lost sales. Not to mention that cross promotion and seeding of downloads/usage can be accomplished by many retailers through a range of existing media and in-store signage. They also have trusted brands. The aggregators and bar-code scanning apps don’t enjoy these advantages.

It’s retail’s game to lose, in other words. If we don’t see these adoption rates improve soon, it will be a major lost opportunity.

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