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One in ten UK shoppers will be shopping for Christmas presents via mobile rather than using their computers this year, according to new stats from Tesco Direct. 

This, and other surveys from the US, provides further evidence of the growth of mobile commerce, and the key role that mobile shopping will play this year. 

So how can retailers make the most of this trend? 

Tesco's survey of 4,000 consumers found a number of different uses of mobiles for shopping, and not all were while out and about.

Half of mobile shoppers uses their phones while watching TV, one in six while sat on the bus, and a quarter during their daily commute. More than a third of all respondents said that shopping via mobile reduced stress levels and allowed them to fit it around busy schedules. 

Tesco said that 500,000 mobile users had visited the Direct site in October, and more are expected in the run up to Christmas. The retailer recently released a mobile version of its website

Recent US stats point to similar trends in mobile shopping, with the MMA finding that 59% of US consumers intend to use their phones for Christmas shopping, and 13% using it to purchase gifts. 

This trend towards the use of mobiles for research, browsing and purchase is set to continue, so retailers need to do more to make the most of this trend. Here are a few suggestions: 

Launch a mobile site or app

This is the most obvious way to appeal to the mobile shopper, and many UK retailers have now released mobile versions of their sites; M&S, Tesco, Argos, John Lewis, and Debenhams have all launched sites or apps in the last six months. 

The stats show that mobile sites can work too. Both eBay and Amazon, who have been at the forefront of mobile shopping, have released impressive mobile sales figures. It has worked for high street retailers too: From May to October, the M&S mobile website attracted 1.2m visitors and 13,000 orders. 

There are now plenty of convincing reasons why retailers need a mobile website or app.

Get listed on mobile comparison apps 

If you have no mobile site, then making sure it is as easy to use as possible on a phone (i.e not too much Flash, clear page layouts etc) is one way. 

Another way is to ensure your products show up on mobile comparison and voucher sites, such as Sccope or Vouchercloud. As mobile users increasingly compare prices on their phones when shopping offline, then this is one way to get your products in front of them. 

Reserve and collect

If retailers have a mobile site or app, then reserve and collect is one way to help drive customers into stores. We know that this works online, but If this is combined with mobile it becomes a very effective tool. 

The Argos iPhone app is a great example of this. It isn't possible to buy direct from the app, but users can check stock levels at any Argos branch and reserve items for immediate collection. 

Barcode scanners

A useful extra for retailers on mobile apps is a barcode scanner, which allows customers to scan products when out shopping and compare prices or find reviews. 

Amazon's app takes a slightly different approach, using photo recognition instead of a scanner, but it's a great tool for offline shopping as it allows shoppers to easily check prices on the site, as well as reading user reviews of a product. 

Kiddicare, eBay and Debenhams are among the retailers who have released barcode scanners, and the beauty is that, once customers have them, it means that even if they are shopping at a competitor's store, retailers still have a chance of grabbing the sale. 

Graham Charlton

Published 29 November, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

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Alex Sbardella

One thing that's worth bearing in mind with barcode scanning functionality is that unfortunately, whilst it has undeniable cool factor, at the moment it's largely a gimmick (and a rather costly one to develop/licence at that). When you factor in that a lot of phones don't have the best cameras in the world (e.g. the iPhone 3G, which is still very popular, has no autofocus so is hopeless for it), and even if they do, it's actually much quicker for a user to simply type in the barcode number manually, or do a search by name. Once the novelty of the barcode reader has faded, day to day users are going to be using these methods instead. Which is no bad thing - the mobile comparison shop is definitely here to stay.

I'd say more important, at least for retailers with B&M presence, is smart use of location. Don't just tell me that you have the product cheaper - tell me on that same screen it's only 5 minutes away and give me turn by turn directions to get there. Otherwise, you risk a user ignoring the price savings for convenience (after all, it's right in front of them as they make the comparison).

over 5 years ago

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Carlos

Hey Alex,

Whilst I largely agree with everything that you say above (especially regarding the effective use of location / ecommerce instead of just saying that you have a cheaper product) I do think that barcode scanners have more than just a gimmick value.

Perhaps it's a case of these brands being ahead of the curve, but camera technology is only going to go one way, so it's great to see them getting an early foot in the door. They need to learn to make their businesses as efficient as possible before the tech catches up to them.

I doubt that this can be written off as just a gimmick, and I wish more brands would get onto the bandwagons and optimise their businesses before the critical mass has swept them by.

That said, it's all about how these brands treat the opportunity. Are they in this for the sexy / gimmicky factor as you say, or are they trying to acclimatise themselves to a future environment?

over 5 years ago

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Alex Sbardella

Another observation from this article that has matched some of our own findings, and one that I think is very interesting (although it seems quite throwaway), is this line:

Half of mobile shoppers uses their phones while watching TV

I think that is a finding that deserves an article of its own! This half of mobile users aren't necessarily "mobile" at all (at least, some of the time), but simply prefer the convenience of a phone over trudging over to their desktop (plus, they'll probably have broadband data via wifi, not just 3G). Not only does this mean there's a good chance curious users who see your TV campaign might be using their phones to check you out (and therefore seeing your mobile site, if you have one) or searching straight on the app store, but I also think this raises some great potential for clever apps that serve as companions to another screen - something we're seeing in general with twitterers chatting alongside TV shows; but could equally be done with smart applications of games, vouchers, shopping, social networking etc. to get these users involved on two platforms (or three if you count social) at the same time.

over 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Alex, 

Thanks for the comments. I take your point about the camera. These scanners do work well on an iPhone 4, but I did used to have a few problems on the 3G, though as time goes by, improved technology should solve these problems. 

The point about TV does deserve a post of its own, I might write one;) You might expect that mobile shopping would happen mainly on the move, but this and other evidence suggests that people just find it easier to use their phone sometimes. Good point about TV ads - the MMA survey i mentioned also said that 13% use their mobiles to respond to TV and outdoor ads. 

over 5 years ago

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Robert

The one in ten figure will no doubt keep on creeping up and it is no surprise with applications such as the Argos and Amazon apps to name but a few.

The point about consumers quickly checking out the store if they see a TV advert is a very interesting point with this in mind retailers should be falling over themselves either to produce a dedicated app or to make their website mobile friendly.

over 5 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

The Argos 'reserve and collect' app mentioned by Graham in the article accounts for almost one quarter of all sales. That's pretty massive in itself.

over 5 years ago

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Alexis

That's amazing and show the potential mobile marketing could have. My question is this. How can one befenit for that trend? I've been trying to earn some money with affiliate marketing. Is it time for me to head over mobile marketing? Where do i start? Thanks all!!

over 5 years ago

Jonathan Kay

Jonathan Kay, Managing Director at 120 Feet

Interesting article, but I just can't see it – “1 in 10 UK shoppers will buy via their mobile”.  Really!

Looking at the M&S stats, this shows a 1.08% conversion from Visitor to Order (assuming that the stats are reasonably accurate) and the Visitor to Customer ratio is likely to be much lower as I suspect that many Customers will have placed more than 1 Order).  And whilst the Argos stats are very impressive, as the article states these people aren’t actually buying via their mobile.

Whilst mobile is great and there are some fantastic apps, and this area will continue to grow rapidly, I can't see the 1 in 10 ratio being hit for another few years, and definitely not this year.

Whilst I may research via mobile, I definitely won’t buy via mobile [quite yet].  Even if with the large screen on my HTC Desire HD it’s just too much effort - and a high perceived security risk - to buy this way when it is so much easier via my PC.

over 5 years ago

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Rene

Interesting piece and I'm sure it will continue to grow but 1 in 10? Have to agree with Jonathan. The danger with surveys of this kind are that they are surveys of early adoptors or people with time on their hands. 1 in 10 buying Christmas shopping through their mobile, I'm not buying it.

over 5 years ago

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Matt

Couldn't agree more with Jonathan and Rene on this, the statistic lacks credibility. Not to cast any doubt on the inevitable and hugely exciting rise of mobile commerce but frankly that 1 in 10 figure for Christmas 10 is unbelievable. I also have to question Chris' figures on Argos... nearly 25% of Argos total group sales are being driven by the iphone reserve & collect app? Again, the numbers just don't stack up here.

over 5 years ago

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Matt Isaacs, Senior Ecommerce Manager at Perricone MD

I can't believe 1 in 10 either.

Browsing is different to completing purchases. Even though I love browsing, I rarely purchase on my mobile as the checkout process is often too fiddily. Also the risk of losing signal/connection (anyone with a HTC Magic will concur I'm sure!) makes it an unappealing process.

It demonstrates that mobile is fast becoming a more important part of the customer journey, which in itself is a big deal, but the headline is quite misleading.

over 5 years ago

Tina Whitfield

Tina Whitfield, CEO at EquisGlobal

Hi Graham,

I would be interested to know if Tesco is including the Internet enabled tablets such as iPad and the small netbooks such as those by Nokia.   

Cheers,

over 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

The press release states that 'One in ten Brits will do their online Christmas shopping using their mobile phone'.

This doesn't necessarily mean that the purchase will take place via mobile, which may explain the figures. 

over 5 years ago

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