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Over the last few years, we’ve seen the growth of mobile accelerate internet connectivity and change the retail and marketing landscape forever, and Britain is at the forefront of this revolution. 

Many have dubbed 2011 the “year of the mobile”, and this is clear from looking at the eBay business, with over 10% of our sales in the UK coming via a mobile device.  

In the next three years, we predict that there will be more change in how people shop than there has been in the past 20 years. 

We believe mobile will play a vital role in this retail revolution, transforming shopping even more significantly than e-commerce did decades ago, as well as blurring the boundaries between online and offline.

So what are the mobile lessons for 2012, for retailers, marketers and even Government and regulators?

Mobile has arrived. Be ready

Increased connectivity means that consumers can shop anytime, anyplace. Using a device that fits in their pocket, consumers can research goods, compare prices, receive discounts and deals, get recommendations from friends and purchase goods. 

People can already do all this shopping on the internet at home or at work. However, the camera and visual recognition functionality embedded in smartphones have given options to shoppers that regular desktop browsing simply doesn't allow.

For instance using a scanning application like eBay’s RedLaser, you can scan an item’s barcode in store to find out where else you can buy the product online or offline, and see which retailer is offering it at the best price. 

The location potential of a smartphone’s GPS functionality also allows the consumer to find out where they can shop locally with greater ease. 

These are just two examples of how consumers have become more empowered via mobile, and retailers need to work even harder to win new customers and maintain loyalty.

Mobile brings together online and the high street

Successful retailers at the forefront of the retail revolution have fully embraced the potential of mobile as part of their multichannel strategies. 

We’re seeing retailers like Tesco trialling augmented reality to improve the shopping experience. While high street retailers, like Debenhams, are using location-based apps to send discounts and deals to customers as they walk past their physical stores to drive footfall. 

Brands that consider how the mobile revolution will impact their business, and put a strategy in place at the heart of the business, have the most to gain.

Action is needed to unleash the full dividends of mobile

By changing the way that we all shop, mobile has the potential to give a much needed boost to the UK economy. eBay recently commissioned Verdict Research to look at the future of mobile retail.

As well as identifying the huge economic potential of mobile, the findings revealed that UK retailers are missing out on up to £1.3bn due to consumer frustrations with the speed, reliability and coverage of their mobile phones.

These barriers are preventing consumers from spending through their mobiles and are inhibiting brands from engaging with their audience.

We need to move fast

As a nation we need faster mobile broadband and better coverage. That’s why we recently launched our Mobile Manifesto, offering a series of recommendations on how policymakers and industry can support the mobile economy.

One of the key areas we focused on was access for consumers.

The rollout of superfast 4G could be one of the solutions. However, we’re lagging behind some of our European neighbours. Ofcom needs to make sure there are no further delays to the auction for 4G spectrum and proceed as quickly as possible to enable rollout of next generation mobile broadband in 2013. 

As part of our Manifesto, we asked consumers what they think should be prioritised. They want improvements to coverage where it will have the most impact, in rural areas and on transport routes such as railways and roads.

The size of global m-commerce is already considerable and growing faster than any other part of retail.

As new technologies emerge and integrate with one another this year, and more smartphone shoppers get online, 2012 is shaping up to be another significant year for those looking to harness the mobile dividend.

Angus McCarey

Published 11 January, 2012 by Angus McCarey

Angus McCarey is UK Retail Director at eBay and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Comments (1)


Amy Nichols

Agreed - will be the year of the mobile but there is more to be to really unleash the power of mobile shopping. I hope NFC and more personalisation will really contribute to more consumer purchasing. Our research in December for Christmas gift purchasing put it at 8% of the UK population having purchasing something via a mobile app

over 4 years ago

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