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The mobile revolution in retail

By Retail Technology | Tuesday February 26 2013

Web design expert Mark Curtis discusses the influence of mobile services on the shopping experience and what retailers need to do to take advantage of this trend

With retailers like HMV and Jessops announcing their administration and Tesco launching “dark” online-only stores this year to focus on digital, the future of the High Street has never been higher on the retail agenda.

As the line between online and offline retail becomes blurred, Mark Curtis, chief client officer at service design consultancy Fjord, said future shops will be completely different.

“People will be able to buy things wherever they see them – in real life, on television – if you see a product, you’ll be able to have it,” he said. But, if shopping is changing what does this mean for retailers and what processes should they implement?

“At Fjord, we expect shopping spaces to disappear or be transformed over the next few years into more temporary, pop-up shop set ups,” Curtis continued. “With these changes, mobile will be playing a bigger role in retail than ever before. Mobile wallet technology in particular encourages creative retailing and a more technology focused, interactive experience. These services will allow retailers to make their High Street customers feel special again, offering a targeted and personalised service.” 

Multichannel revolution instore 

He said payment technologies like Square and PayPal can avoid a one-size fits all approach to discounting and strengthen customer loyalty. “Geo-fencing creates an enjoyable payment experience, allowing consumers to pay without taking their wallet from their pocket,” he added. “We’ve already seen how Apple has reinvented the instore experience, transforming it from traditional shop to showroom by eliminating the need to queue at a till.”

With so many retailers integrating mobile into their offering, for example with instore Wi-Fi, targeted offers based on geo-location as well as ‘click & collect’ instore services, the design expert contends that mobile phone technology is bringing about a period of revolutionary change. “The mobile experience is changing how consumers interact with the High Street and we’ve shifted from autonomy instore to a more tailored, targeted and personal online experience,” added Curtis.

Mobile services have become as important to people as the products they’re buying. “With developments in technology, consumers now expect a fantastic, easy and convenient experience when they buy and with 20% of sales over Christmas 2012 coming from mobile, this process needs to be smooth and effective,” he said.

Mobile services add personal touch

Mobile technology also means that retailers have the data to engage with consumers on the move and can provide a personalised and tailored experience. Curtis pointed out: “Consumers feel deep loyalty to the sellers who recognise them, get to know them, and help them discover the best deals on suitable merchandise. For example, Amazon's and Netflix's highly-regarded recommendation engines create a valuable customer relationship.

“The adaptability and versatility of the smartphone means that we are sure to see an m-commerce explosion, as consumers not only adopt mobile as a new way to pay but also to browse and share products. Industry experts predict that smartphone penetration rates will soon surpass 50% and consequently consumer behaviour on the high street is being transformed.”

Curtis concluded: “Retailers need to ensure that they are considering mobile as part of their strategy and implementing it effectively so that consumers can rely on its services. The retail revolution heavily involves mobile and retailers who do not offer this technology as part of their purchase process will miss out on loyal customers as well as sales.”

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