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EDITORIAL Mobile: the good, the bad and the future

The good

The good

Research by, an affiliate marketing network, revealed this week that 39% of UK shoppers wouldn’t really care if all high street shops were to close. In short, shoppers are rapidly losing love for the high street – or at least for the old way of doing things.

And this is the fundamental problem with real-world retail: it is stuck in a by-gone age.

However, while increasing numbers of shoppers turn to online and mobile to do their shopping – according to 73% of the 2000 people quizzed by, it is easier than going to the shops – the sites that are starting to gain online traction are, in essence, online department stores.

Research by uSwitch suggests that more people than ever will be shopping on mobile in 2019 and the sites that top the list are Amazon, eBay and Argos. These retailers are becoming the linchpin of people’s mobile shopping habits and there is no reason to see that changing in 2019 – there will just be more of the same.

The reasons given to uSwitch by consumers as to why they are wanting to use mobile more in 2019 than ever before is simple: it is easier and more convenient. It isn’t a large leap to see, too, that the choice of apps and mobile sites that they are also opting to use when doing this mobile shopping are also easier and more convenient.

Ironically, this is why department stores used to be popular: everything under one roof – now they are being killed by the online version of themselves, albeit with infinite aisles.

But it is the need for ease and convenience that is what the high street should be looking at. Department stores such as M&S, Debenhams, House of Fraser et alwere once the by-word in convenience. Today, compared to firing up the endless range of goods at Amazon is just too easy by comparison.

There is no way that real-world stores can compare to this. So how then do they look to survive, or are we just delaying the inevitable? Today 39% don’t care, tomorrow it will be even more.

The answer lies, as well we all know, it turning retail destinations into experiences. However, making this happen is the hard part. Technology needs to be put into the hands of staff and customers alike, that much is clear.

A survey by retail IT consulting and technology firm REPL Group of more than 1,000 UK shoppers found that almost half (41%) of UK shoppers say that the lack of availability of products on the high street is the biggest frustration of shopping in-store – compounded for 59% of consumers who have at some point seen a special offer or been sent a voucher from a store only to find that the product was out of stock when they got there.

Interestingly, 70% feel that apps providing real-time stock information, product recommendations and giving shop staff access to in-depth product knowledge and customers’ buying profiles would enhance their shopping experience.

This is backed up by Daniel Bobroff, founder of Asos Ventures no less, who believes that to unlock the value in the high street requires a drastic rethink as to how tech is used, how businesses are structured, how old, traditional ways of doing thing – especially with stock – are ditched and, perhaps most pressingly, how ROI can no longer be the main measure for doing things.

The message is that radical changes are needed in real world retail, or the online ‘department stores’ are going to take all the traffic. The real world needs to offer the experience – and the chance to experience – as well as the social and theatrical side of retail. Online and mobile is there for the convenience that most shoppers now crave.

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