Is mobile the future of retail?

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Mobile has often been prophesied as the holy grail of marketing, offering marketeers the opportunity to have meaningful and continuous one to one contact with their target audience. And every year, for the past five years at least, we have heard from numerous industry big wigs that this is finally the year that mobile, as a channel, will live up to its potential.

Advances in technology have given mobile the leg up it desperately needed, advances in hardware, software and connectivity have transformed our humble telephones into smartphones that have more computing power than N.A.S.A had when it sent men to the moon.

And of course it is not just smartphones that drive the mobile channel, 17 million tablet devices were sold in the UK last year providing consumers with a richer online experience, whether they are at home, work or on their travels.

These advances have clearly had a massive impact on people’s behaviour changing how, when, where and why people shop. IMRG reported earlier this year that the internet retailing market in the UK grew by 16% in 2013 to £91 billion and forecasts that by the end of 2014 we will see consumers spend £107 billion online.

Mark Lewis, Online Director, at John Lewis said that mobile devices now made up over half of all traffic to and it would appear this trend is industry wide with Andy Harding, Executive Director for Multichannel, at House of Fraser reporting very similar numbers.

This would indicate that mobile is playing an increasingly important role in the customer journey and would explain the mobile first approach adopted by House of Fraser regarding their online design strategy.

And it would appear that we love mobile to such an extent that UK consumers are the most active on social media via mobile globally. Social sharing is already making an impact in retail and is likely to grow its influence going forward with innovations such as the virtual dressing room becoming more widely adopted.

When we couple all of these changes together with QR Codes, Apps, Coupons and location based targeting we can begin to see the importance of the mobile channel to the retail industry.

Further advances in technology, devices and social interaction will continue to disrupt, challenge and re-shape the retail landscape and it would appear mobile will be at the heart of that change.