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2014: Context is king

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Well happy mobile new year to you. And it is going to be year propelled by mobile, but not as in previous years by the tech, but rather by the way consumers have demonstrably shifted how they want to shop.

As shown in my customary predictions for 2014 below, the key trend in retail generally is that the consumer is now very much in the driving seat and so business is having to become more in the orbit if the happy shopper, rather than hoping that shoppers career across any one retailer’s firmament like a comet.

This means that now data about consumers is more key than ever – and this is forcing a rethink of the early 2010s obsession with big data, instead forcing retailers to look more at smart data; data that actually delivers context about what consumers are doing, where they are doing it and why targeting them right now with an offer is a really good idea.

Naturally, the tool for helping assess this contextual approach to your customers – and in delivering context related engagement – is the mobile.

OK so more people are shopping from home using tablets. Yes, this is mobile retail, but really its just ordinary e-commerce: only the device is shifting from a PC or laptop towards an easier to use handheld computer.

Where mobile retail is really coming into its own in 2014 is through context based engagement: tapping into consumers based on where they are and what they are doing. The mobile is the key tool because it is increasingly part of the very fabric of most consumers lives. It is their social media window, their shopping and navigation tool, their search tool, address book, email and IM terminal – and it is trackable. It gives retailers access to the consumer’s context and gives a channel to connect with them.

In theory this is all pretty basic stuff, but how do you actually make the most of it in reality? That is what is really the key challenge for omni-channel retailers in 2014. Collecting the right data is hard enough. Knowing what to do with it effectively and without annoying your customers is even harder.

I have been talking to some of the key players in the mobile tech space in the run up to Christmas – often over a few glasses of mulled wine: thanks chaps – and they too are still in the process of deciphering how this is going to work. But they all agree that, while the mainstream media is going to go all gooey for Google Glass, the real revolution in mobile and m-commerce will be around the more prosaic world of data, marketing and understanding context. This is, supposedly, Mobile 3.0. I like to think its more Mobile 2014.
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