Does Mobile Revenue Really Matter for Retailers?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Does mobile revenue really matter for retailers?

"Retailers love to talk about mobile - often tossing out huge year/year growth figures in sales and traffic," Wells Fargo Securities retail analysts wrote in a research note on Friday. "Of course this growth is off of a low base, but more importantly does mobile revenue really matter? Is it just a channel shift or is any of it incremental? Does it measure the true importance of mobile in the retail purchase path?"

While the mobile experience, i.e. customers using their tablets and smartphones for shopping purposes, will certainly be a tailwind for some retailers by "extending the desktop" and creating a more connected consumer, it may not be creating a "massive amount of incremental sales," the note says.

Mobile commerce was 13% of e-commerce sales last year, up from 9.3% in 2012, the analysts say, citing Internet Retailer and the Department of Commerce. Still that's just 1%-2% of total retail sales and "likely much less for most retailers," the analysts wrote.

"We believe mobile is much more important as a customer engagement tool for areas like product research, store and inventory look-up, and targeted local offers," the note says. "We believe retailers should spend less time talking about mobile revenue and more time talking about mobile engagement: mobile traffic, mobile app usage, tasks performed on mobile, and in store mobile usage."

So who's on the bandwagon and who's not?

Wal-Mart (WMT) and Amazon (AMZN) of course have big presence in the mobile commerce arena, but there are a surprising number of retailers that haven't gotten on the boat yet.

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