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Opinion: Shoppers expect a better multichannel offer than retailers provide says Dan Wagner

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed online spending in the UK has increased by 13.4 compared to the same time last year. Although there was a dip of 0.1 per cent from the previous month, the figures still send a clear message that retailers are now dealing with a savvier customer base seeking greater levels of control and freedom in how and when they purchase goods.

The rapid increase of mobile commerce is closely linked to this growing demand for freedom. eMarketer estimated there were 30.9m smartphone users in the country by the end of last year, representing 48.4 per cent of UK residents and 60.4 per cent of UK mobile phone users. Phones and tablets are now used for nearly six per cent of all retail sales according to figures released by e-tail industry body IMRG, with sales via mobile devices doubling to £3bn. This number will only grow as the cost of owning a smartphone decreases and more retailers open up their mobile strategy.

Shoppers increasingly anticipate that traditional bricks-and-mortar and eCommerce will merge into a single seamless experience, and mobile offers the perfect platform to combine the two. Retailers that continue to think in terms of online versus offline face being left behind. ‘Showrooming’ has emerged as a particular problem, with consumers browsing products in-store before leaving to buy from a rival online – or even in-store on their mobile.

We launched PowaTag to meet this growing demand from consumers and to help retailers connect their strategies. The service enables shoppers to instantly buy items wherever and whenever they desire, by simply scanning a tag. The tag can be on the item itself, or on advertising anywhere from billboards to TV. The purchase can then be sent to their preferred address, or picked up in-store.

Alongside facilitating purchase mobile also holds the key to better understanding and engagement with customers in-store, especially via Bluetooth beacon technology. Retailers can place beacons around their premises to passively interact with activated mobile devices, allowing them to discover how shoppers behave, including the routes they take and in which areas of the store they spend the most time.

The insights from this data will prove invaluable in helping retailers plan their store layout, allowing them to better determine where high value good and promotions should be placed, as well as which displays have best caught the eye.

There are also some extremely interesting opportunities to engage directly with customers on an individual level. The beacons can be used to send personalised messages and offers based on the shopper’s preferences and shopping history. For example, they can receive promotions for accessories that complement a specific outfit they recently purchased.

Beacons are also very accessible for retailers and consumers alike. All smartphones are Bluetooth-ready without any additional hardware, making it a very easy solution for consumers to get on board with. Likewise the beacons themselves are usually available for £12 or less and are easy to set up, so retailers can readily access a method of collecting data and customer engagement that is both inexpensive and unobtrusive.

The days of the retail space-race are behind us, and future success will be measured in how the experience is tailored to meet the demands of shoppers. With consumer demand for buying freedom now so clear, retailers ignore them at their peril. 


Dan Wagner is CEO of Powa Technologies