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Mobile will be a game-changer but the game has only just started

Despite the universal belief that mobile will have a significant impact on the retail industry it is important that retailers adopt the technology in a way that suits their customer propositions. By Glynn Davis

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Mobile will be a game-changer but the game has only just started

Ahead of chairing the 3rd Retail Bulletin Mobile Retailing Summit 2013 in London on September 24, Andrew McClelland, chief operations and policy officer at IMRG, suggests: “Retailers need to understand their customers. It’s when they swing away from their core proposition that there is a problem because customers shop with brands and not with channels. If the retailer sells cheap products through low-end stores then not having a [cutting-edge] mobile site is not a problem.” 

A considered approach to a mobile strategy is therefore recommended by McClelland who says retailers have the benefit of the current economic backdrop resulting in customers engaging in more considered purchasing decisions.

“If this was 2006/7 then it would be hard for them to keep up with the demands of customers and it is these consumers who are driving the developments of mobile. There will be massive adoption of mobile but there is more time for retailers to get on top of it,” he suggests.

One of the issues they will need to address is differentiating between the devices customers are using as this will enable the customer experience to be adapted to the device being used. This is complicated by the fact that McClelland says a laptop could technically be deemed mobile.

Being able to differentiate is determined by the level of analytics that individual retailers have adopted. Whereas some like Shop Direct Group will have such visibility he says: “We can draw up a list of retailers who will not yet be in the ball game and are struggling with their systems and their investment in mobile is lagging.”

Again the speed of adoption of complex analytics should be driven by the expectations of customers. The reality for larger retailers who may be struggling is that their core shoppers will not expect them to be at the cutting edge of technology adoption.

"The big guys have the brand muscle to push things through without being early adopters. Their brand values show they are trusted, with the customer expecting them to do the right thing, and this might not be about having the latest technology. They could be in danger of chasing technology when their customer base is not there,” explains McClelland.

Maybe lessons have been learnt from the mid-2000s when there was a race for the latest web technology and in the midst of this many large retailers lost track of what their customers wanted. 

Another reality check for retailers, according to McClelland, is that although 20% of searches are now made on mobile devices and a similar level of purchases are made online this still reveals that 80% are undertaken down the more traditional routes. 

And although smartphone sales have overtaken other mobile phone types he suggests this does not necessarily mean that all these consumers are shopping via such devices just yet. 

Until they do then retailers have the benefit of some breathing space to carefully manage their approaches to the ultimately vital mobile channel. 

Andrew will be sharing his knowledge along with our other impressive speakers from John Lewis, EE, Miista, The Body Shop UK, Domino’s Pizza Group, Historic Scotland, Economist Intelligence Unit, Star Micronics, InfoStretch, Solebery Advisory Ltd., Mobileweb Company. Click here to network with your peers at this one day, interactive event. 

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