The brands and merchants that stand out this year will focus on providing consumers with a great mobile-adapted browsing experience that facilitates engagement and shopping through to purchase.

They will also have a greater emphasis on context and ensure they have the technology and analytics in place to know their customer better. Presenting offers and information in the right way and at the right time and place will entice their customers to step over the line and make that purchase.

Furthermore, for mobile commerce to reach its full potential collaboration is essential. It can't just be about businesses operating independently of one another – this will only serve to further fragment the market as well as products and strategy.

What do consumers want in 2015?

Unwaveringly consumers still want the same thing they always have; for shopping to be simple, easy, consistent and secure. This isn't going to change in the year ahead.

The one thing that is changing is how this is going to be delivered and how the shoppers can take it with them rather than needing to consciously pick coupons, loyalty cards or identification.

Not only are there new authentication and payment methods but consumers expect the added ability to browse, select, save and spend via connected devices, including wearables and watches. As a result we are anticipating a mega shift in shopper behaviour for 2015.

For example, we have already seen the impact that click & collect has had over the last few months, especially around Christmas. Looking ahead Deloitte predicts click & collect locations will for the first time surpass 500,000 locations in Europe's five largest markets – Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Additionally, Apple only further disrupted the shopping paradigm by bringing technology to the consumer in a simple and fool proof way and now by leveraging in-app and proximity payments. Customers will adapt their habits and choose the retailers and brands that enable the use of technologies how and when they want to make shopping easier – Apple Pay, click & collect, in-app purchases and NFC.

The retailers that provide the easiest, secure and most consistently used technologies for consumers to research, shop and pay will be the winners in 2015. Those that don't revolutionise how they use technology will be overlooked and left behind.

What does the ideal service look like?

User Experience

Today's shopper experience is still highly disjointed. What consumers face online versus in-store or in-app varies widely and differs from one retailer to the next.

Some retailers don't have apps that are compatible with multiple operating systems and devices. If you have a Windows phone you may not have access to the same retailer apps and payment options as someone who has the latest iPhone or Android.

This is where education comes in.

Knowledge must extend beyond just in-store to provide the best possible customer experience. It will be important that retail staff understand the technologies available to their customers along with any restrictions and limitations.

Gartner predicts that by 2017, 89% of marketing leaders expect customer experience to be their primary basis for competitive differentiation.

However, the services merchants provide need to have similar guidelines around the technology used for browsing, payment, loyalty and couponing to ensure consumers are getting the consistent experience they’re looking for.

Big Data & Analytics

Loyalty and couponing programmes are at the heart of many merchants' longer-term customer engagement strategies. Supported by advanced mobile technologies and services, a loyalty programme can build a sense of affinity between consumers and brands and merchants, leading to greater customer retention, interaction and ultimately sales.

In the year ahead merchants and brands will use multiple datasets to make loyalty programmes directly relevant to individual consumers, the challenge faced here is who owns the data and how much will it cost to get more.

With the explicit permission of the individual, a broad array of contextual data captured by the mobile operator or service provider, such as location, direction of travel and web browsing history. This can then be analysed and used to provide relevant information and offers to customers in real time via the mobile networks and contactless technologies.

With the right contextual information, a merchant can effectively give customers a 'VIP experience' that makes them feel like they're receiving special treatment.

Merchants and loyalty providers would also benefit by having the capability to draw a direct correlation between their loyalty programmes and coupon distribution and actual sales. They can also grow their base in loyalty by utilising the scale of the mobile operators as an example rather than just focusing on their traditional loyalty footfall.

For example, mobile technologies, such as NFC, can help merchants and brands determine the effectiveness of a specific campaign real-time by registering the redemption of coupons and loyalty points at point of sale and if needed adjust an ongoing campaign to better suit the needs of the company or customer.  

Payments

Deloitte predicts this year will see a 1,000% increase in the number of global smartphones used at least once a month to make an in-store contactless payment. This provides an opportunity but also a challenge for retailers.

Ultimately they'll need to look at the types of payment options available in their region and ensure they choose the right technology for their consumers.

NFC payment readers are a good option as they are typically emulation services; where phones or wearables are pretending to be a card. So the model that works for the card, also works for the device no matter what it is – a handset, wristband or key fob.

Furthermore, mobile devices have many unique identifiers, such as biometric information, voice or fingerprint recognition, which could be built into a solution that provides an even greater level of security. Apple Pay touch ID is one of those manifestations.

In the year ahead merchants will look at how they can best leverage the technologies that provide the easiest and most secure options for their customers to pay.

Collaboration

For retailers, having back office systems that can support purchasing needs is vital. Avoiding road blocks including complex user sign up, or sign in will be key to enabling the shopping journey via mobile to be a secure but as seamless as possible.

The goal for all retailers in 2015 should be to deliver a consistent service to all customers, as a baseline. This means providing ubiquitous services for transacting, engaging in loyalty programmes and couponing and ensuring new technology is brought in-store to help support and enhance the overall shopping experience no matter what the mobile network or even service provider for core mobile capabilities like redeeming a coupon.

Paul Crutchley, strategic engagement director at mobile operators association, the GSMA, writes a regular Essential Retail column on mobile technology's influence on retail.

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