Eye on eCommerce: Guy Chiswick, MD, Webloyalty

"It's a basic part of retailing – you need to understand your customer," says Guy Chiswick, managing director of Webloyalty. "You need to adopt to change. And at the moment, the order of change is so huge compared to any other time."

Chiswick is of course talking about how technology is affecting the retail industry, of which mobile is one of the main disruptors.

Mobile is going to continue to be crucial to the retail shopping journey, with Webloyalty predicting mobile sales will be worth as much as the amount spent in more than 30,000 UK shops by 2019.

UK mCommerce is worth £9.7 billion but is expected to grow to £53.6 billion by 2024. Spend on smartphones alone is expected to increase by 243.5% over the next four years, while spend on both phones and tablets is likely to increase by over 230%.

"At the moment, 3% of all retail sales are via mobile, but this is expected to grow to the best part of 10% by 2019," explains Chiswick, who heads up Webloyalty's retail and multichannel strategy. "And there's been a significant change over the last few years, where mobile was used to browse, but not to buy."

Chiswick predicts this is about to change, as long as retailers remove the barriers as mCommerce matures.

Chiswick notes how retailers have been wary about consumers using mobile devices to 'showroom'– check prices on competitive websites while shopping in a store – but he says retailers who embrace this rather than trying to stop it will succeed in the end.

"Back in 2008, there was a big discussion about in-store Wi-Fi. Retailers were thinking they shouldn't because shoppers would use their phones to look at a competitor's website," he says. "But yes, retailers should offer free Wi-Fi to keep people in store for longer and to offer valuable services while they're in there."

Webloyalty's Mobile Consumer report discovered 41.3% of consumers will buy a product on a device after viewing it on mobile, and a further 11% of shoppers will purchase an item in-store, resulting in £18 million in additional sales for UK retailers. But the industry needs to make this process as easy as possible through better connectivity and easy-to-use websites.

Connectivity problems will be solved through the proliferation of 4G over the coming year or so, but there are still many things retailers can do to ensure customers can shop effortlessly on their mobile devices.

Chiswick points to security, saying the recent data breach from Carphone Warehouse only adds to concerns about shopping on mobile devices. He also says retailers need to capatalise on the smartphone's small screen size.

"It's about the ease of making a purchase," he says. "Amazon is almost too easy – you can buy with one click because they store your card details."

As well as overcoming the cumbersome way customers have to type in card details by perhaps using the smartphone camera and card-scanning technology, retailers need to work on the design of their mobile websites.

Webloyalty is itself investing in mobile to enhance its customer experience. The B2B2C vendor, which provides cashback rewards for registered shoppers, is looking towards retailers who have already embarked on mobile-first strategies for inspiration.

"How can you optimise when the mobile screen it is 10x smaller, but you still have to be 20x clearer?"

Chiswick describes an 'accordion-type' layout, where information is staggered. "You're not going to get 100% of information onto one mobile screen," he says. "So design and layout are key in terms of how you deliver your messaging – you have to think differently about the user experience."

But out of all industries, Chiswick does think retail is the best at adapting to change. When it comes to technology, he says retailers need to have the right people on their boards who are "plugged in" to technological change.

"A lot of retailers will look at in store, online and mCommerce – the challenge is when do you integrate all of these things?" he says, pointing to retailers like Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and Argos who are taking the changes to shopping behaviour seriously.

"Retailers are getting there, but it will be interesting to see where this goes over the next five years – we'll see mobile spend increase from £28 billion to £112 billion," he explains, noting 42% of retail sales will involve a mobile device by 2024.

"Mobile is growing at twice the rate of retail sales. But are retailers putting their investment in the right areas and setting themselves up for the future of an increasingly mobile-first world?"

Visitors to RBTE 2016 will be able to meet with representatives from Webloyalty on stand #783. The event takes place at London's Olympia on 9-10 March 2016.

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And for a copy of the report, click below

The Mobile Consumer