Is Mobile Shopping A Gift Or A Threat For Retailers This Xmas?
Online spending is due to break another record this Christmas with an estimated £13 billion worth of transactions being made through places like eBay and Amazon. It means that for another year running high street stores are due for a seasonal slump – last year, the number of customers buying in-store dropped by around 3 per cent and that figure could double for 2014.
One of the reasons why online spending is set to increase is because of the rise in smartphone and tablet use. While retailers have only had to compete with the internet in the past, mobiles and tablets are providing an added threat for Christmas 2014. Many people will be using their mobiles to do their Christmas shopping through mobile browsers or apps. It could set high street sales back even further.
Last year, Forrester in the United States predicted that smartphone shopping would amount to $24 billion worth of commerce and tablet shopping would almost double this at around $48 billion. This year’s numbers are almost twice as high. They predict that around $38 billion will be made from customers shopping on their smartphones and $76 billion from tablets. The popularity is unlikely to be much different here in the United Kingdom where almost 75% of the population own one of those devices.
With the likes of Tesco and Marks And Spencer having taken an enormous hit during the Christmas sales last year there will probably be a feeling of anxiety in the air. Online shopping was bad enough; how much is the added popularity of smartphone and tablet commerce going to hurt them this time around? But the best thing that retailers can do is not see the rise of yet another digital shopping platform as a threat. They should see it as an opportunity to get innovative and explore new ways to creating customers.
One of the most important things is for businesses to make sure their mobile presence is exceptional. River Island is a perfect example of this. As well as a website responsive for desktop, mobile and tablet browsers, they now have popular smartphone and tablet apps. This means that customers can purchase products on the go wherever they might be and whatever tech they might have on hand. After all, if people are going to be buying a lot of their presents over their handheld devices this Christmas, why not meet them there with the products they want?
Companies should also be making the most of the data that an app can provide to improve the in-store experience for customers. They could utilise information about shoppers’ ages, locations and previous purchases to create an in-store experience tailored exactly to their particular needs and habits. House Of Fraser, for instance, has been doing this in a very unique way at its Aberdeen location. It is currently trialing beacon technology that provides information to customers’ smartphones about the clothes displayed on a mannequins when they walk past them. Giving customers the option to click and collect when mobile shopping is another successful measure; customers are likely to buy extra items on impulse when they come to a store to collect parcels.
Retailers, as always, should not see technology as a threat but as an advantage. Mobile and tablet commerce is a trend that will certainly affect stores that refuse to adapt to the times. However, companies that find creative ways to use the growing trend of to their advantage are likely to have a Christmastime full of riches and rewards.