Three steps to mobile retail

28 October 2013

Barry Moles

Barry Moles


The mobile revolution has happened, but not all retailers seem to have noticed. They are missing an opportunity, losing out on sales, and in time will be sidelined as more and more of their competitors develop sophisticated mobile strategies.

Nearly 50% of the UK population now has a smartphone, according to the European Travel Commission’s New Media Trend Watch. Meanwhile, global tablet sales in the first quarter of 2013 were higher than in the entire first half of 2012, with 49.2 million units shipped, according to the International Data Corporation.

What is more, a growing number of people are using these mobile devices for shopping. Research from Shoppercentric has found that 37% of 18-24-year-olds and 38% of 25-34-year-olds have made retail purchases via their mobile platforms.

The issue is not simply that the eyeballs and credit card details of tomorrow’s shoppers are not on the high street or even the laptop – they are on the smartphone or tablet. The issue is that by embracing mobile retailers at the cutting-edge are gaining an ever greater awareness of who their customers are, what they want, and how best to give it to them.

So, how can you keep up?

1) Provide a joined-up journey.

It is not enough to have a mobile and tablet version of your website. These versions must be exact, real-time replicas of your online site. Shoppers need the reassurance of the same brand, structure, navigation and so on. They expect to be able to use their phone on the train into work to drop an item into their basket, and then to be able to use their desktop in their lunch hour to find that item still in their basket and explore it in more detail.

2) Understand the browse-to-buy equation

According to Gartner, by 2017, top retailers expect 76.5% of sales to come through stores, 14.6% via e-commerce and 6.5% through mobile. The takeaway here is not that mobile is unimportant, but that mobile is more gateway than sales engine. The future sales funnel will see consumers move to sat-back browsing on tablets/smartphones, to detailed research and purchase online or in-store. Retailers need to understand how they can encourage engagement and progression at each stage.

3) Take on showrooming and win

For many retailers there is an in-built aversion to mobile that stems from watching shoppers see an item in-store, pull out their phones, tap away for a while, then leave. They know these people have been using their expensive retail space as little more than a showroom for online retailers who are under-cutting them.

It does little good to get angry; instead get even. Think about how you can use tablets in-store to enhance the customer experience. Actively monitor competitors’ prices online and offline. Make sure you can’t be undercut, and equally make sure you are not charging too little. Make the mobile revolution work for you.

Those retailers that have succeeded in getting all of this right are now enjoying significant benefits. For example, mobile sales rose at Argos rose 114% in the four months from March to June 2013, compared with the same period in 2012. Mobile now makes up about 15% of total sales. Ocado, meanwhile, reported that 28% of its checkouts now occur on mobile platforms. The incentive is there; it is time for retailers to rise to the challenge.

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About the author

Barry Moles


I am a retail expert, having spent more than 20 years in numerous managerial and operational roles including merchandise, supply chain, finance and marketing.

I bring a unique hands-on perspective to advising clients having worked in every retail category (food, electrical, clothing, telecoms, pharmacy, charity) across all consumer channels (out of town, online, shopping centres, department stores, concessions and outlet villages) for major retailers in the United Kingdom.

My passion, amongst many hot topics facing retailers, is helping senior executives and their teams plan and run omni-channel retail strategies.

When I am not with a client, I can either be found on the high street or travelling the world with my family.

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