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Mark Curtis, chief client officer, Fjord

UK shoppers are set to spend a whopping £4.6bn online during the Christmas peak weeks, with IMRG predicting 20% of these sales will be made through mobile devices (nma.co.uk 19 Nov 2012).

It’s clear that m-commerce will be the driving force behind successful Christmas trading this year.

Against a bleak economic backdrop and an uncertain future for the traditional high street, savvy retailers are adapting their marketing strategies to tap into the billion pounds forecast to be spent through mobile devices this festive season.

As Argos closes 70 stores in the UK, to focus on its digital strategy, and Tesco’s builds a national network of online-only “dark stores”, we continue to see evidence that the old adage innovate or die is becoming a business reality for the retail sector.   

Mobile is ringing in the changes this Christmas and the potential for an m-commerce explosion next year is massive. 

At Fjord we expect mobile technology to revolutionise not just the act of shopping but shops themselves. With experts predicting that smartphone penetration rates will soon surpass 50% in several key regions, we’re already seeing some retailers catering for changing consumer behaviour by using m-commerce in innovative ways.

For example, high street retailer AllSaints is offering in-store iPad kiosks where customers can order items that aren’t in stock at that location from their online store instead.

In the crowded Christmas market, it’s essential that retailers find ways to stand out. Quality, convenience and relationships are all important to today’s shoppers and, in many cases, achieving this improved customer service demands the adoption of a mobile strategy.

Mobile lets consumers essentially carry the internet in their pockets. Their experiences in the digital world inform their offline experiences, be that by assisting decision-making or strengthening our sense of community.

It’s hard to believe that four years ago I was thrown out of a shop at Oxford Circus for taking a picture of a pair shoes to check they were the right pair – today such a thing is unthinkable.

So whether they are last-minute panic buying this Christmas, or doing a detailed search across retail channels for the perfect present, mobile buying will be the first point of call for many.

Indeed, retail is undergoing a creative revolution from new mobile wallet technologies such as PayPal Here to the popularity of shared and pop-up stores and we predict a future that combines the digital and physical worlds and places the customer at the front of the shopping experience.

The accessibility of mobile alternatives to traditional payment infrastructures is having a dramatic effect on the marketplace.

If retailers are to compete in the struggling high street as we move into the New Year, they need to recognise consumers want to be able to shop in a variety of ways, regardless of whether the experience is on- or offline.

So whether it’s by providing kiosks in store where customers can buy out-of-stock items from the online store or by allowing customers to return online purchases in the shops, retailers need to think about how they can help customers switch seamlessly between the digital and physical worlds.

While this period of transition creates clear challenges for retailers, it also offers fantastic potential for innovation and success. Over the next few years, all businesses in the retail ecosystem must develop their businesses to satisfy the needs and desires of a mobile, digital, savvy and selective customer base. 

Change will come at a cost for some businesses and there will be casualties but, at Fjord, we believe that retailers and others should embrace this opportunity for transformation, because in the long run it will lead to deeper and more profitable relationships with their customers.

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Published 22 November, 2012 by NMA Staff

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