Embracing Mobile-First Retail

March 25, 20197min

According to Forrester, over the next five years western European online retail sales will grow at over three times the rate of total retail sales.

What’s driving this growth?

It comes as no surprise that consumers’ adoption of digital devices, particularly smartphones, plays a substantial role. With Forrester estimating that 84 percent of online adults in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain use smartphones, always-connected consumers will continue to drive online retail sales across Europe.

But when it comes to ‘m-commerce’ – with the purchase actually being transacted on a mobile device – its promises always seem to lie just around the corner. For a number of years we’ve seen retail predictions that this is the year for mobile, but has it ever really come true? And will 2019 be any different?

At the risk of joining in with the crystal ball gazing, 2019 may mark a watershed in mobile retail – but only if retailers can seize the opportunity that is now on offer.

The mobile opportunity

No one claims that mobile will surpass other retail channels in terms of conversions in the foreseeable future. In-store, where consumers can examine items and talk to knowledgeable sales assistants, still provides a unique experience and should never be compromised; meanwhile, traditional online retail presents the shopper with enormous choice on an easily viewed browser.

But mobile does have a key role to play in shoppers’ experience. Whilst our recent research showed 11 percent of UK shoppers planned to use mobile as their preferred channel in the run-up to Christmas 2018, it also revealed that of those using mobile, almost 40 percent were using it to look for inspiration for gifts rather than make the actual purchase.

We also found that just under a third of shoppers planned to use mobiles to check online prices while in-store (the old ‘showrooming’ phenomenon). This insight is supported by figures from Deloitte’s annual UK mobile consumer survey, which reveals the rising influence of smartphones on retail sales – including how 84 percent of millennials claim to use their phones for shopping assistance while in a store.

How to keep shoppers coming back

It’s clear that mobile is a large and increasingly important part of the Customer Experience journey. The challenge for retailers – and their great opportunity – is ensuring that the mobile experience is easy to navigate and consistently fantastic, whether shoppers are making purchases, looking for gift inspiration, or comparing prices.

Retailers might think that the best way to turn browsing into sales is by offering something that others don’t – and to some degree they’re right. But getting the basics correct counts for much more than a gimmick.

According to Forrester, smartphone-savvy consumers have high expectations for mobile experiences, with 61 percent of shoppers more likely to return to a website if it is mobile-friendly.

What steps can retailers take to ensure their mobile sites keep shoppers coming back?

For starters, m-commerce sites should be optimised for every device and mobile OS. Differences in screen size and resolution, button placement, or operating system can have a huge effect on the mobile experience. Retailers often claim that they optimise their websites for every device, but do they take into account the small factors which can have big consequences on the path to purchase?

One example is placing the checkout or ‘Buy Now’ button in the space where push notifications usually appear. This could lead to the user becoming distracted or accidentally clicking out of the purchase – perhaps a small problem but one which, multiplied by thousands of users, could severely affect sales.

Another key consideration is designing websites to be mobile-first. Many websites carry a large amount of content that is right for bigger screens, such as long blogs, videos, or interactive content. Mobile-first sites, on the other hand, need to be crisp, clear, uncluttered and easy to navigate, with visuals specifically designed for mobile devices.

Finally, we would urge retailers to think about devices holistically. M-commerce is about much more than buying something through your device’s browser. An effective strategy should embrace loyalty apps with a range of functions that optimises navigability, provides a variety of services, and boosts loyalty. This could include self-service options such as checking availability and setting up click-and-collect delivery options, or providing product reviews, social integration and single-click ordering.

By adopting a thorough m-commerce strategy, retailers have a unique opportunity to do much more than just operate another sales channel. Providing a great mobile experience will differentiate retailers in a crowded market and make them the first choice for the generations who were practically born with a mobile device in their hand, whilst also appealing to the masses that are always shopping. And, unlike many of the premature promises about mobile, this future is tantalisingly close.


Richard Willis

Richard Willis

Richard Willis is RVP at Aptos.




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