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EDITORIAL Mobile cements its place in modern retail

The latest research by Periscope by McKinsey – Retail reimagined: The new era for customer experience –  shows how mobile is set to be key to recovery, especially for retailers that run online and physical retail businesses.

Mobile is not only proving to be a convenient tool for online shopping, with 34% of shoppers making app orders in the UK during the pandemic the study says, but it is also going to be key to social distancing in shops.

It is also becoming a key tool to differentiate between online retailers too.

While the use of mobile to shop is well documented, as is the way it is increasingly being used to offer a snapshot of how busy shops are, it is also likely to be a key payment tool too.

Mobile contactless payments are pretty much the ultimate in keeping things clean: they don’t touch anything and are personal to that user. They don’t even have to touch the terminal.

In fact, digital payments have received a massive boost during the re-opening phase of lockdown. Payment service provider Klarna has added 35,000 new merchants to the 200,000 it already has over the lockdown and has seen more than 14 million new customers use its services.

The move to digital payments, especially mobile, is yet another trend that has been accelerated by the pandemic. Cash could well be on the way out, as it is a contamination hazard and many retailers, large and small are refusing to handle it.

This is an obvious boon for digital payments and is likely to usher in a whole new era of how we pay. Once the contactless limit has been raised again beyond the current £45, it is likely to become the way to pay.

The other role that mobile is increasingly playing is as a differentiator in the already highly-competitive online retail space. With most retailers and brands now having to sell online, how they stand out from the crowd is increasingly important.

Amazon knows this only too well and, having last week monstered the grocery business, has this week turned its attentions to the booming DIY sector. And it too is using mobile to give it the edge.

It has launched an upgraded version of its AR service to help place furniture and homeware in overlay. The difference – and it is a big one – from all others doing this is that it allows the overlay of multiple items at once, so that the user can try a range of things to see how they work together.

Moreover, it allows for suggested products to also be placed, taking the “people also bought…” function to new, practical, heights.

If that wasn’t enough, it also allows the overlay to be done on a photo of the room, so it can also be done when not in situ.

This is clever stuff and marks the beginning of a real shift in how mobile is used in retail. Like so much in ecommerce during the pandemic, this too has been accelerated and we are poised to see a mobile become even more dominant as a retail tool in the months ahead.

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