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Retail Bulletin Mobile Summit Report

Here in the first part of our report on Retail Bulletin’s Mobile Summit held earlier this week we report on how delegates were given a fascinating insight into the world of mobile retailing and how retailers can drive profit, market share and customer engagement through cost-effective mobile strategies.


Retail Bulletin Mobile Summit Report

Here in the first part of our report on Retail Bulletin’s Mobile Summit held earlier this week we report on how delegates were given a fascinating insight into the world of mobile retailing and how retailers can drive profit, market share and customer engagement through cost-effective mobile strategies.

Sponsored by Digipos Store Solutions, the event really got to grips with all the challenges and opportunities relating to a multi-channel and mobile future.

Ian Patterson, managing director of EMEA at Digipos, opened the conference by telling the audience that when taking their first steps into the world of mobile they should bear in mind that mobile retailing will be driven by what consumers are demanding.  Customers now want full communication with all aspects of a retailer’s brand whether it is in store, online or mobile. He also highlighted the merits of choosing an optimised mobile website vs. a native mobile app and the fact that a battle was emerging between the two – what’s best? And finally he revealed that only 42% of organisations in the UK had a mobile strategy in place so there was still a long way to go in achieving full adoption. But those retailers who embraced all the challenges and opportunities would certainly reap the benefits.

The opening keynote speech was given by Robin Phillips, director of e-commerce at Waitrose. Phillips explained how Waitrose had recognised early on that it would take the long view when it came to m-commerce but that did not mean that there was no pressure to succeed.  He highlighted how customers were driving the retailer’s multi-channel approach and that it was now all about offering customers more ways to shop.

Phillips said it was important not to get left behind in the mobile revolution as technology changed so quickly. But it was equally important not to take too big a step change as customers may not like it. He recounted how the retailer had introduced a new ecommerce platform earlier in the year that in some ways had been a big step taken too quickly. Therefore the lesson learned was to make incremental changes not revolutionary ones.

Interestingly Phillips said that Waitrose did not have a specific mobile strategy but focused instead on how customers who wanted to interact with Waitrose did so through an online device. Waitrose wanted to be innovative with its customers and improve how customers interacted with the retailer.

He explained how Waitrose had entered the world of apps following extensive research with customers.  Half a million apps have now been downloaded from the retailer’s app store and a Christmas app had made a huge contribution to the season’s sales.

Regarding the issue of mobile web vs. native app, Phillips said he was open-minded. He loved the immediacy of mobile web but also liked the functionality and almost gaming element of apps. The challenge was how to bring the benefits of mobile web and apps together in terms of creating a really great customer experience. 

And what of the future? Phillips said trends to look out for included HTML 5 vs. apps, the growing Android market, retailers communicating offers and building loyalty through mobile, staff using tablets in store for productivity, the “gamification” of apps to engage a new generation of audience, and the  convergence of social local and mobile.

The next speaker, Chris Russell of eDigital Research, examined how retailers could focus their strategy by incorporating the latest research conclusions.

Russell began by emphasising the phenomenal speed of change that was taking place in the world of mobile web. He said that he and his colleagues regarded a year in the pace of change in the internet was seven weeks, but in the world of mobile it was even faster at five weeks. Furthermore, smart phone use is taking far less time than other technology to reach 50% penetration.

He pointed out that there will be 1 billion mobile users worldwide by 2013 and that mobile is expected to outpace online access. And most importantly it will be customers who drive the pace of change so retailers need to keep up. There is also a fundamental change in customer behaviour taking place with customers increasingly using mobile to research products in store and to price check.

So what does a great mobile experience look like? Russell said that a good first impression is crucial and that there has to be a compelling brand message. Search has to be clear both in terms of key words and navigation – it is vital that customers can get to where they want to go quickly and easily. And it is also important that product categories and product pages match those of the website.

And what of customer expectations? Russell firstly looked at mobile sites and said that customers want strong security messages, strong brand messages, the mobile site to mirror the website, and for content to be a condensed version of the website.   

In terms of apps, customers want ease of use, good filtering options, a variety of product images, lots of information as included on the website, and ease of navigation.

He summed up by saying that we are currently experiencing a speed of change never seen before where customers’ expectations are running ahead of what retailers can offer. It is important that retailers keep up by asking customers what they want then acting on this information rapidly. 

Conference chairman Andy Parsley of Green Lion then interviewed Steve Gray, the chairman and CEO of Mobilize. Gray said that he did not think that any retailer has yet got its mobile strategy absolutely right and that many are still taking their first steps.  He stressed how powerful mobile is in helping retailers to become customer-centric in a way that can help to propel their businesses forward.

He said that mobile can help customers to engage with retail brands, not just on the phone but also in store, and that customers who engaged with the brand will spend more. He felt there is an opportunity for retailers if they invest in understanding how customers interact with mobile sites on different handsets as each handset offered a different experience.

Gray was another speaker who stressed the speed of change and that many retailers are still finding it difficult to implement a good mobile strategy.  He said the latter requires leadership from an experienced marketer as well as from an IT specialist.  He added that mobile is now more mainstream than in the early days, but that retailers are still finding it difficult to integrate mobile into other areas of their business.

Gavin Merriman, group head of ecommerce strategy at Shop Direct Group, gave an interesting insight into how Shop Direct drove ROI through the evaluation of key retailing options when developing its own mobile site.

Merriman said that Shop Direct undertook extensive research before embarking on the development of its mobile site, and that the lessons learned had paid off. The amount of customers using the mobile site is growing rapidly with a six-fold increase being seen in the last six months. Merriman said he could see mobile moving to fixed line by 2015.

Shop Direct had found that older and less affluent shoppers are less likely to shop via mobile, and customers who do shop on their phone rate convenience as a major factor in why they do so. Barriers to mobile shopping include poor user experience, concerns about security, small screen size and slow speed.

Merriman said the research found that 66% of Shop Direct’s customers are multichannel shoppers so concluded that its strategy should not be about growing mobile on its own, but as part of the whole multichannel mix.

In terms of devices, Shop Direct opted for iPhones in the first instance as these offered the best conversion rates, although Android phones were found to generate more traffic. After the launch of the mobile site, the company followed it with an app, and is now planning to introduce a full tablet site. Other new initiatives include using customers’ locations to recommend local Collect+ outlets and a geo-fencing campaign.

Merriman said a future key challenge is tracking mobile ads though marketing attribution – what role does each advert play in actioning someone to purchase.

He concluded by saying that mobile is now absolutely central to Shop Direct’s strategy even more so than social, video, personalisation, and SEO.

Part two of this Mobile Retail conference report will follow on Monday.


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