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Mobile represents the future but how do we bring it into the present

It is difficult to escape the all-encompassing hold that mobile devices now have over our lives and as the capability of smart devices rapidly advances, it is inevitable that they will play an ever more central role in the future. By Glynn Davis

OMNICHANNEL

Mobile represents the future but how do we bring it into the present

Retailers have not failed to notice the impact mobile is having and they are finding themselves having to react ever-quicker to meet customer expectations. This is putting great pressure on their operations as merchants are already grappling with the challenge of knitting together their various channels to create a cohesive multi-channel proposition.

From Tesco down the whole industry is working hard to integrate mobile – and its myriad capabilities - into their strategies. Janet Smith, Clubcard director at Tesco, says: “We believe phones will be crucial to multi-channel.”

The supermarket launched a number of apps that include the ability to scan products, which then adds them to their shopping lists, and which quickly accounted for 30% to 50% of its online grocery sales.

What is making this possible is the uptake of internet-enabled devices. Dan Hartveld, director of mobile at Red Ant, says 85 per cent of all new handsets sold in the UK now have internet connectivity, which means the channel simply cannot be ignored by any retailer and is quickly becoming a key driver of web sales.

This is certainly the case at online fashion retailer Shop Direct Group where group e-commerce director Jonathan says the company has enjoyed a four-fold increase over the past six months, with “hockey stick growth” being experienced.

He adds: “The buzzword in our business is mobile. We’ve a non mobile-optimised site and we are getting three per cent of sales on it. We’ll be launching a mobile-optimised site and expect sales to ramp up.”

Crucially for Wall, mobile will be the “connecting point for multi-channel” and it is already having a significant impact in how the company communicates with its customers. Since they are increasingly receiving emails on their mobile phone, and reacting to them on the device, Wall says this has led to a six per cent decline in email usage on PCs compared with 36 per cent growth in email usage on mobile devices.

Mobile is proving itself to be a great tool for retailers to deliver the much-vaunted one-to-one communications with their customers. This potentially makes the devices a core element of any loyalty scheme.

Steve Gray, chief executive of Mobilize Systems, certainly thinks so: “For retailers without a current loyalty programme it’s a no-brainer to make mobile the centre of that because it removes the cost of paper-based coupons and [physical] redemption aspects.”
 
He predicts that as smart-phone penetration continues to increase it is likely that in 18 months time all loyalty programmes will enable customers to earn and redeem points via their phones.

If this wasn’t enough then mobile devices are also likely to play a serious role in the world of payments as the opportunity to buy goods via the mobile phone looks like another inevitable development.

Jon Worley, principal consultant for customer loyalty at The Logic Group, is among the many players in the industry who agree mobile will have a massive effect on retail: “For the past 10 years we’ve talked about mobile devices for payment and loyalty and it will be the next big thing. By 2013/14 we’ll have widespread use of mobile for these things.”

With mobile proving such a disruptive force to the existing practices of retailers’ it can be difficult for merchants to grasp the opportunities the device presents and to successfully harness its power.

Ian Patterson, managing director EMEA at DigiPoS Store Solutions, added,"It would be true to say we are seeing a paradigm shift, but in order to embrace the opportunities presented by mobile, I believe retailers face a challenge in integrating their legacy systems. They need to work with the right partner to develop a scalable solution and to create a uniform, multi-channel customer experience."

Thankfully, help is at hand with the forthcoming Retail Mobile Summit 2011 organised by The Retail Bulletin.
This unmissable Summit, sponsored by DigiPoS, will be held on September 27th in London. The objective of the event is for delegates to find answers for many of the questions they have about how best to benefit from the opportunities that mobile undoubtedly presents. For more information, click here.

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