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2013 was another fascinating year in mobile as many brands finally reached the point where smartphones and tablets now account for a majority of their site traffic.

This meant that businesses could no longer ignore the need to cater for mobile users, leading to a noticeable trend towards using responsive design as well as the launch of a number of excellent commerce apps.

The use of mobile technology in-store also became more prominent alongside a stronger focus on mobile search, location-based marketing and other related services such as click-and-collect.

So to round up some of the biggest developments in mobile from 2013 and look forward to what we can expect to see in the next 12 months, I spoke to mobile experts from eBay, Net-A-Porter, Schuh and Somo...

1. What do you think was the most interesting mobile trend in 2013?

Olivier Ropars, eBay

As mobile technology evolves, consumers today are becoming more and more demanding when it comes to convenience and speed. The arrival of universal 4G earlier this year brought with it a more immersive and instant shopping experience than ever before – putting the most exciting features of mobile retail as we know it into high definition.  

In the past, people have been put off by slow connectivity speeds, but the arrival of 4G is turbo-charging the way we shop, giving us the ability to shop anytime, anywhere. We know that nearly one in three (30%) eBay transactions globally are touched by mobile at some point in the transaction.

The 4G experience means that far more people will be turning to mobile for shopping, which means an extra £1.8bn of consumer spending up for grabs.

Sarah Watson, group mobile manager at The Net-A-Porter Group

One of the traditional barriers to online shopping has been the fact that consumers like to hold items in their hands and examine the quality up close. Clever technologies, such as the Retina screen of the iPad, are helping the most innovative in the industry to experiment with things like textured screens to emulate the feel of items.

There’s huge potential for this in the luxury market and we’re already producing applications that allow users to examine the products up close to explore the smallest detail, giving the impression that they are actually moving, touching and interacting with items.

With the promise of greater availability of 4G, the online experience is getting faster and that means we can offer an increasingly interactive luxury user experience.

Stuart McMillan, deputy head of ecommerce at Schuh

At the beginning of 2013 mobile (excluding tablet) accounted for 26% of our traffic, and we ended the year with it contributing 33%. In that time, we’ve seen some good conversion rate improvements, accompanied with good basket size improvements. 

Historically, mobile baskets have always been lower value than desktop but just before Christmas the difference was only about 6%, which is a good improvement.

Carl Uminski, COO and co-founder of Somo

I think that the growth of tablets this year has been phenomenal. People have been switching off PCs and laptops and picking up tablets. This year more time was spent on mobile devices than on desktops and laptops combined and, as a result, there has been an explosion of users ‘dual-screening’: using a mobile or a tablet whilst watching TV. 

2. What aspect of mobile do you think marketers will most need to focus on moving into 2014?

Olivier Ropars, eBay

If 2013 was about the advent of 4G, 2014 will be the year that retail truly embraces mobile shopping as it becomes more ubiquitous. Recent eBay research shows that tablets have proven to be the shopping device of choice over the festive period, with consumers using them for more of their Christmas shopping than desktop and laptop combined. There’s no doubt this trend will continue into the new year.

Retailers and their marketers need to focus on how they take advantage of this growing mobile trend – both smartphone and tablet. It’s not just about creating optimised sites for mobile browsing. They also need to fully embrace the use of technology in-store, from offering free Wi-Fi through to interactive technology and new payment choices.

To top it off, at eBay we’re expecting mobile sales reaching in excess of $20bn worldwide by the end of this year and last year alone 4.2m customers joined us for the first time from a mobile device, showing the scale of opportunity open to retailers who embrace mobile.

Sarah Watson, The Net-A-Porter Group

Wearable tech like Google Glass, Nike’s FuelBand and Apple’s iWatch will provide a layer of interaction between the technology and user to truly merge the physical and digital worlds. This will allow retailers and marketers to know insightful things about their users, such as how active they are and their most travelled routes. 

Of course, it’s easy to get carried away with the possibilities of new technologies but the key thing with these developments is that they’re inspiring, engaging and truly enhance consumers’ lives. While some of us are not yet prepared to go shopping in a virtual world, it’s a safe bet that as the next generation of tablet-loving teens grows up, the mobile shopping world will blossom and continue to transform shopping habits.  

Stuart McMillan, Schuh

I think mobile SEO needs more attention. For a while now on desktop search we’ve all been focusing on off-site factors, largely as on-site factors have been 'solved'. 

However, the same isn’t true for mobile; given the constraints of the device/connection, it’s much harder to get an acceptable user experience. We need to really focus on the technical aspects of our sites, such as markup and performance.

Carl Uminski, Somo

For 2014, it's going to be important that marketers stop thinking of mobile as a separate channel and work with other mediums to create a better user experience.

In order to reap the benefits marketers will need to focus on this sort of activity as a foundation for integrated campaigns, for example through synchronous mobile and TV activity (as we've started to see with Shazam) and asynchronous amplification of TV ads by mobile and social and display advertising.

3. We often hear that mobile marketing is being driven by consumer adoption. In which aspect of mobile do you think that marketers are still the furthest behind consumers?

Sarah Watson, The Net-A-Porter Group

There’s still scope for marketers to go beyond consumer expectations in the area of personalization. Just as luxury shop assistants learn customers’ tastes, online retailers can and are already starting to successfully replicate this.

Carefully gathered information, from social media to geo-location data, can help luxury retailers to better understand their customers and tap into local trends, offering customers an individual experience tailored to their tastes.  

Carl Uminski, Somo 

For me, it's still retail to be honest. As consumers, we always have our mobile close to hand and yet the majority of retailers fail to take advantage of this in-store. When you consider the payment phases of purchases, it seems ridiculous that more isn't being made of mobile.

Mobile should increasingly be used as a tool to streamline the retail experience, allowing shoppers to navigate better, receive more personalised information, and pay more smoothly.

Even if you look at digital commerce, there are huge benefits to integrating mobile services in terms of sorting out logistics and delivery of goods. In 2014 I think services like 'click and collect' will come into their own, especially the ability to collect at local newsagents. 

4. What was your favourite mobile campaign or initiative of 2013?

Sarah Watson, The Net-A-Porter Group

Shopping always has been, and possibly always will be, a social experience. As consumers, we value the opinions of friends, family, colleagues and appreciate their opinions before pulling out a credit card.

That’s why I’m so proud of our major app launch of the year – the virtual social shopping experience we’ve called The Netbook (although I am slightly biased...). 

               

Earlier in the year we were given the opportunity to form a start-up style team and were challenged to design, develop and build a new social commerce app. We have a very active social community and we know our users love to shop, so why not mix the two together? 

The app is invite-only at the moment and is still very much a work in progress but we have lots in the pipeline for 2014, so stay tuned!

Carl Uminski, Somo

I don't think you can talk about mobile in 2013 without mentioning Google Glass. The debate it's sparked has been fantastic, there's nothing else like it out there and it has huge potential.

We've had Glass since the early summer and the immediate reaction to it is very similar to when people caught a glimpse of an iPad. More and more people are getting their hands on Glass and there are so many different uses being explored, it's pretty exciting and rightly so. 

David Moth

Published 6 January, 2014 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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