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EDITORIAL Fasten your seat belts for a mobile rollercoaster year

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It may not have been the merriest of Christmases for retailers, but it has certainly been a mobile one.

While I chewed on cold turkey I was glued to the rolling news as to how the High Street was doing on Boxing Day. Early reports in The Sun suggested there were queues at stores in the West End and that there was going to be a £4bn Boxing Day bonanza. That quickly became a story of slow but steady sale sales.

By lunchtime on 26 December, Springboard suggested that footfall was down 4.2% compared to the same hours on Boxing Day 2017. This is a slightly smaller drop than the -5.6% in 2017 from 2016, but a greater drop than on Boxing Day in 2016 when footfall declined by 2.8% from 2015.

Having shortly after that rendered myself comatose with Bailey’s for the remainder of the holiday I am yet to see what actually happened, but it seems sales were down post-Christmas, but not by as much as some feared.

With Brexit uncertainty still very much in evidence, it seems hardly surprising.

However, to my original point: while sales were down, mobile has once again logged massive growth over the Christmas period, both in terms of usage and conversion.

According to analysis of the browsing and buying behaviour of 5000 retailers across more than 80 countries by Criteo, mobile devices accounted for 54% of online transactions in Q3 2018.

Both mobile web and app conversions were up and, for retailers that advertised and promoted the benefits of their app, app conversions rose by some 17% on average. This chimes with most of the analysis in the run up to Peak that mobile was increasingly taking a majority of ecommerce sales.

This also sets the scene for 2019 to be an increasingly mobile-led commerce year. Retailers will increasingly use mobile to engage shoppers across channels, social media and in-store. Vodafone even kicked off the new year with the opening of a new flagship store in central London that relies on mobile to take the in-store experience beyond ‘traditional retail’.

As our analysis of the mobile year ahead also points out, we are going to see a lot more use of mobile to push visual search, off-the-page retail and social retailing as retailers turn to technology to help make themselves more efficient and to take a greater slice of sales in the current tough environment.

The year ahead is also going to see growing competition as to who the retailers actually are. While ‘shops’ as we know them continue to struggle, technology – led by mobile – is going t push shoppers to look in new places for goods. Increasingly, publishers and social sites – along with marketplaces and brands – are likely to adopt new ways to sell.

The year ahead promises to be an interesting one – not least as the world of retail gets a shake up like never before. The next three months, until Brexit’s path is clear, are going to be tough as spending stasis sets in, but post 29 March, all bets are off. So, Happy New Year and welcome back. Fasten your seatbelts.

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