Retail is an industry that has recently been in the news for all the wrong reasons in the UK as high street retailers continue to struggle. With bleak economic conditions as a backdrop, it is more important than ever that retailers devise alternative ways to reach their valued consumers.

Embracing technology is one way to reach customers.

Mobile technology is at the forefront of this changing market; the consumer appetite for purchasing via mobile has never been higher, presenting an ideal opportunity for brands to maximise the consumer demand to purchase goods whenever and wherever they wish.

Our recent report, looking at trends in the mobile advertising industry, found that consumer confidence in mobile shopping is at an all-time high with 29% considering shopping with their mobiles and 55% planning to purchase. It is clear that consumers are now far more receptive to mobile commerce than ever before; this comes as a result of continuous education by the mobile industry to overcome concerns such as trust and security, combined with falling data costs and increased capabilities of smartphones and tablets. Fears of purchasing via mobile have also decreased; just a year ago 27% of respondents had fears over payment security whereas the figure now stands at just 3%.

Another finding to emerge from the report is the convenience mobiles provide has put online stores and the ability to compare and research purchases directly into the hands of consumers, with 74% of consumers using mobile for last-minute purchases. This is linked to the increasing prevalence of mobile vouchers and QR codes to drive people to connect mobile with the offline world.

Brands considering a mobile offering should note that although it’s a successful channel, it is constantly changing. We have recently seen a shift in what people are buying. Not only are they purchasing digital products for their phones in the form of entertainment content (video, games, music) but also physical products (clothes and electronics).  The latter may yet outpace entertainment as key products driving mobile commerce in UK (56%), US (37%), South Africa (33%) and Nigeria (35%)

Despite its growth globally countries such as the UK and those in Europe are far down the scale when it comes to mobile shopping. Pakistan (66%) tops the charts with Spain in the bottom two (28%). Nevertheless UK brands are beginning to see some great results from mobile campaigns, for example:

  • Marks and Spencer – sales from mobile devices rocketed 90 per cent year-on-year to 2012. It will not therefore come as a surprise that the retailer has launched a ‘digital lab’ division, which will work with the retailer’s in-house software engineering division to develop innovation within in-store technology, digital marketing and digital platforms.
  • Domino’s Pizza – Dominos committed to mobile early on and now has a wide range of mobile ordering platforms including iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Phone apps, as well as an optimised mobile website. The pizza delivery company is testament to mobile enabling convenience – as a result mobile sales in Q3 of 2012 rose 46.9 to £11.6m.

So for those retailers without a mobile strategy where should they begin? Initially retailers should consider how a mobile campaign can fit within their offline strategy. While adoption of mobile is increasing, many consumers still prefer to make payments in person. To bridge this gap mobile coupons or loyalty programmes can be offered and then be presented for redemption in a physical store. Further, when consumers begin to make mobile purchases brands need to consider the whole lifecycle of mobile and provide post-purchase tracking services. Banks and merchants also have a key role to play here to provide on-going support and reassurance to their clients about the safety of mobile transactions, for example by using SMS notifications and enabling balance enquiries.

Mobile is on an upward trajectory – recent research from Juniper found that retailers worldwide are set to spend $28 billion on mobile marketing campaigns in 2013, with the annual spend spiking to $55bn by 2015. As a result those retailers who are embracing mobile wholeheartedly are reaping the rewards.

Dr KF Lai

Dr KF Lai


Dr KF Lai is the CEO of BuzzCity.