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EDITORIAL’s mobile-first approach lifts Shop Direct – and it will soon be lifting everyone

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Ever since InternetRetailing started covering mobile as a separate ecommerce channel some eight years ago, m-commerce has seen double digit growth year on year – until now. This summer, fuelled by hot weather, has seen m-commerce growth slow to ‘just’ 10%, its lowest level since 2014.

That isn’t to say that mobile is over: far from it. Nothing can keep growing at that pace sustainably for that long. But it also has fallen victim, like so many things in the UK, to the weather.

This Summer’s heat had people outside doing things and, for the first time in a long while, had them looking up, blinking at the blue and away from their screens. The heat wave that lasted for nigh-on three months had people doing things, rather than shopping.

The fact that online retail saw surprisingly high growth over the same period is driven by the fact that many bought garden furniture, beer and other outdoor pursuits (beer is a sport, right?) to enjoy the out.

The weather also saw apparel sales rise – and one of the main beneficiaries has been Shop Direct Group, which recorded a marginal increase in sales of 1.5% year-on-year, driven by a 9% rise in sales at its company. This growth at Very – which offset losses, again, at sister company Littlewoods – was driven once again by mobile.

Shop Direct has long concentrated on being a mobile-first brand and it is paying off. Mobile sales at Very are up 35.9% year-on-year and across the whole group, 74% of sales are completed on mobile.

While the summer may have seen growth in m-commerce falter, year-long figures like these suggest that this is just a blip and that more growth is to come as more retailers – many of whom are not tapping into mobile-first – start to see their mobile sales grow.

Mobile is also set to get a boost in the coming months and years as more retailers start to realise that it holds the key to making the in-store experience more accessible and enjoyable.

Research from Clicktale suggests that long queues in shops and poor check-out experiences are one of consumers biggest bugbears. Separate research by Whistl finds that 57% of shoppers actually want to avoid in-store human interaction and would rather use automated self-check out or scan and go to make life easier in stores. Of particular interest is that 63% of shoppers don’t want to talk to anyone when buying clothes.

The only vertical to break the trend is beauty, which is more driven by people – but it is an exception.

Taken together, all this points to a bright mobile future for both ecommerce and in-store. The trick is making it happen. At a recent retailer networking event talk turned to how to make these much needed changes happen and it was widely held that change has to come from the very top… but that making the CEO change their world view is unlikely. While some argued that change in culture can only come from a change in CEO, others suggested that it was possible for the CEO to change their view and drive their company in another direction.

Either way, change is going to come. Mobile commerce won’t be going away and it won’t stop growing yet, but to reach its full potential – like all the tech we talk about around retail, along with the change needed in how retail works – that change has to be driven from the top. So CEOs, are you ready for a rethink?

Image: Fotolia

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