Our website uses cookies

Cookies enable us to provide the best experience possible and help us understand how visitors use our website. By browsing Essential Retail Magazine, you agree to our use of cookies.

Okay, I understand Learn more

Mobile: the future of the high street?

We are living in a mobile world. The rise of smartphone customers and the development of an omniscient internet means that today’s constantly-connected customers are using mobile devices at all points in the shopping lifecycle, cementing its status as one of the most disruptive technologies on the high street.

Mobile services are continuing to boom and provide a great opportunity for retailers to develop new growth strategies. Recent data from IMRG revealed that mobile commerce now accounts for 20.2% of all web sales in the UK and mobile traffic to retail sites is at 30%. In addition, the latest British Retail Consortium report looking at the cost of payment collection reveals that cash sales are down almost 10% as customers explore alternative methods of payments, such as PayPal and mobile wallets when completing purchases.


The rise of digital natives who have grown up with an inherent understanding of technology means the number of mobile-savvy consumers is continuing to grow at an unprecedented rate. However, the evolution of the mobile customer is also creating new challenges for traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers. For example, research by Foolproof, the design agency, revealed that 24% of people showroomed when Christmas shopping last year. This effectively means consumers found something they wanted in store, tested it, were ready to buy, but then used their mobile to check the price online. Finding it cheaper on the internet, they then abandoned their purchase in store to buy the product elsewhere. Foolproof’s research found that in total, 40% of consumers went on to complete a purchase elsewhere.

Building loyalty

Rather than seeing show-rooming as a threat, retailers need to embrace mobile engagement as an opportunity for building loyalty with their customers. Mobile gives the retailer 24-hour access to all customers and enables the capture of key customer related data, all of which provides a great opportunity for insight and the development of new innovative customer engagement.

Retailers need to innovate and focus on the interaction of mobile throughout the shopping lifecycle. Some high street giants have already developed new strategies designed to target show-rooming customers by introducing price promises. John Lewis, Mothercare, Currys and Tesco have all introduced policies that commit to offering products at the same or lower than the price of competitors on the high street or online so that customers are incentivised to complete purchases with the brand.

In addition, a growing number of retailers are looking at offering new ‘open’ store initiatives that aim to drive online access and price comparison in- store. By enabling customers to easily show-room in store, the retailer can control the potential sale by being able to offer not only a competitive price, but instant access to the product for instant gratification and the opportunity to upsell value-added services and associated products to increase basket size.

Innovation quickly becomes the norm

Innovation through mobile and new applications will be key to a retailer’s growth in the future. 24-hour access, personalisation and instant gratification all provide the opportunity to build strong customer advocacy. For example, offering customers the opportunity to use in-store wi-fi means that retailers can gather vital information about consumers’ shopping, searching and personal habits. Armed with this data, retailers have the potential to combine this with wider customer based market data enabling them to gain a true holistic view of their customers. Thus, further enabling customers to be targeted with personalised offers, geo-specific location ads and specific relevant product discounts, all designed to encourage customers to complete a purchase.

Retailers also need to consider how mobile can change all the traditional touch-points of the shopping lifecycle. Customers may research purchases on a smartphone or tablet device so brands need to ensure that they have a transactional mobile site that is optimised for mobile users. Once customers move in store, retailers need to rethink how mobile can be used to enhance the bricks-and-mortar experience. Apple, for instance, provides staff with handheld mobile devices that can be used to enter customer details and bring up details of their past purchases so that they can offer advice tailored specifically to the customer. Other retailers have invested in new mobile applications for customers smartphones, which contain additional levels of functionality. Ikea has recently launched a new interactive catalogue which enables users to wave their smartphones over pages of the traditional paper catalogue to see what is behind cabinet doors, accessing further product information and digital how-to-videos.

The rise of 4G and digital wallets also means that customers will begin to expect to be able to use their mobile device to quickly complete transactions in store. Let’s not forget the basics though, mobile must be part of a wider omni-channel digital strategy. Customers are now starting to expect a joined up approach to their retail engagement; when buying something online their expectation is to receive a text or email notification to let them know when it has been delivered to their closest store. Failure to provide such hygiene capabilities has the potential to limit a retailer’s growth within the new omni-channel paradigm as convenience within the shopping cycle will be vital.

Go social

As consumers continue to become more social media aware, social applications such as FourSquare or Facebook Places also provide great opportunity for group retail engagement. Retailers have the opportunity to enable consumers to “check-in” at locations so that they can collect virtual rewards when purchasing or providing product and store recommends. Combining mobile and social is a great way for retailers to engage with new customers and prospects. It’s key though to understand all aspects of social interaction, positive and negative. Enabling customers to take photos of clothing they like, or use a virtual fitting-room, means images can then be shared with friends on social media sites instantly. The positivity of this experience relies critically on the customer engagement when in store and therefore personal interaction and knowledge of store associates is fundamental.

Ultimately, mobile retail is starting to disrupt all areas of the traditional shopping journey. Retailers must adapt quickly, rethink traditional approaches, develop new strategies and tools which showcase increased customer interaction and convenience. As a result, develop long term brand loyalty. Mobility offers consumers and customers a more interactive, convenient shopping experience and provides a great opportunity for retailers to effectively and efficiently engage with their customers to increase loyalty and sales in order to stay ahead of competition on the high street and online.