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EDITORIAL How mobile will be key to retail for the Zoom generation

The shift to online ushered in by lockdown – which is increasingly happening on mobile – belies the fact that shoppers have been heading that way anyway at increasing speed. It also masks that the way consumers use the web and what that means for shopping is also changing.

According to Ofcom’s annual Online Nation report for 2020, not only are 87% of consumers aged 16 using the web – with 81% of them are doing so on a mobile or tablet – but also they are doing increasingly different things with their web time and expecting a different kind of experience from the brands and retailers that they engage with.

The study shows that those that are using the web are looking at engagement, be it social, or with media companies and brands. However, what is more apparent is that, within that, users are looking at gamification around that engagement.

For retailers and brands this presents both a challenge and opportunity. As they rapidly adapt to the new digital world foisted on them by coronavirus, they have the opportunity to make those services more mobile-friendly and to build in the levels of engagement and gamification that consumers seem to want.

The challenge is that they are up against some digital giants that already ‘own’ the customer in this regard.

According to Ofcom’s study, while Amazon, Google and Facebook-owned services are dominant online – which should also be a worry for retailers –the likes of TikTok, HouseParty and even Roblox have seen massive growth, especially among younger users, during the lockdown.

For the more mature internet user, Zoom has started to become a fixture of daily life and, if like me, you have found yourself using it daily, you will also have started to use more and more of its interactive features.

These services, which tend to be more playful and are designed to let people play as they engage, are becoming the new norm for everyone. This means that the e and m-commerce goalposts have shifted again: now retailers need to look not just at how to engage consumers through the usual channels, as well as on social, but also how to make these services more attractive to the ‘generation interactive’ (Gen-i?).

Making online retail services right for what consumers want has always been a moveable feast and the speed of change that coronavirus has initiated has made that harder still, but now the industry faces a new challenge – to make retail more of an engaging, playful experience.

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