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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.