In 2019, and for the first time ever, consumers will be as likely to use their smartphones to shop as they would using a laptop or desktop, according to new research by price comparison and switching service uSwitch.com. And they are pointing their devices at Amazon, eBay and Argos.
Shoppers plan to spend £25 billion using their smartphones this year, a £10 billion rise on 2018. More than 30 million UK consumers (58%) will use smart devices to shop this year – an increase of 12 million, or 66%, compared to 2018.
The popularity of smartphone and tablet shopping is being driven by convenience, which two thirds (66%) of shoppers say is the main draw of using a smart device. The ability to shop at any time (64%), compare prices (40%) and the superior choice available (39%) are other strong influencers, while more than a third (36%) believe online shopping represents better value.
Clothes are by far the most popular product bought online (69%), ahead of books (51%), groceries (47%) and theatre or cinema tickets (43%). The most popular websites used for online shopping, however, are not exclusively clothes retailers – 89% of consumers use Amazon and 63% use eBay.
The convenience and the ‘always on’ nature of smartphone shopping means that no matter where people are, they can spend on their phones. The living room is the preferred location for most (78%), but one in seven Brits (14%) sneakily shop at work and nearly a tenth (8%) do so on their daily commute.
A notable portion (6%) even admit to shopping on their phone while using the bathroom – with those aged under 35 more than twice as likely to do so (14%). In fact, the bathroom is a more popular place to online shop for younger people than the kitchen (13%).
Ru Bhikha, mobiles expert at uSwitch.com, explains: “For so many of us now, our smartphone is an extension of our hand and we have it with us at all times, meaning that we can shop whenever and wherever we like. Our handsets allow us to window shop all the time, and if we see something we like, it is right there at our fingertips.”
Bhikha continues: “With smartphone and tablet shopping now a £25 billion industry, it’s hardly surprising that major retailers have long adopted a mobile-first approach to their websites and have even introduced their own apps to make the user experience as easy as possible. Cleaner user journeys and the ease of one-click purchasing will only add to the number of people shopping on their phones and tablets. Providing your phone has a decent connection to either a good broadband supply or 3G or 4G, you can shop any time and any place – and this year more Brits than ever look set to take advantage of that.”
What does this mean for retailers and the high street?
This shift towards mobile has a profound impact on both the high street and retail in general. With half the population shopping on their phones, differentiation is going to become more important than ever for retailers who want to stand out and attract smartphone shoppers.
“Savvy retailers are already seeing dedicated apps delivering the best mobile performance,” says John Gillan, Managing Director for Northern Europe, Criteo. “This report reveals that convenience is the overriding factor in favour of mobile shopping, and apps can make the process even more streamlined for shoppers. But simply launching an app is no guarantee of increasing your customer base by 66% in 2019 in line with uSwitch’s findings. Our Q2 Global Commerce Review identified a 30% YoY increase in app transactions worldwide as consumers become more reliant on the convenience and personalisation that in-app commerce experiences can offer.”
To capitalise on the UK’s growing m-shopper base, retailers not only need a dedicated app, but must develop and commit to an ongoing shopping app promotion strategy, believes Gillan.
Many might think that is the last nail in the high street’s coffin, but shopping in store is not dead yet. Mobile purchasing rates have been increasing noticeably since 2015, with all retailers aware of the growth. However to compete with the growing convenience of mobile shopping, they quickly need to reimagine the instore experience.
“Our research shows that the value of an experience is enhanced when it can be shared both in the moment and on social, generating positive social responses by peers,” says Gillan. “This means retailers need to make shopping experiences more like what people experience online, in terms of shareability, and look and feel in terms of aesthetics and photography.”
The only way for retailers and brands to deliver on shoppers’ experience expectations is through the effective collection, use, and optimisation of online and offline shopper data. Using next generation technology such as Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, reams of data can be quickly assembled into a clear picture of consumer behaviour and preference.
“What’s more,” says Gillan, “omnishoppers actually spend the most of all consumers, meaning there’s a huge bonus to retailers who can marry the convenience of mobile with in-store shopping through experiential shopping and click-and-collect or showrooming.”