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A decade on and the iPhone really has changed the world

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A decade on and the iPhone really has changed the world
A decade on and the iPhone really has changed the world
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the launch of the iPhone. In that decade – the mobile decade – m-commerce has been transformed... and has itself transformed the world.

Just two weeks before the mammoth Mobile World Congress brings together more than 100,000 mobile people in Barcelona, we are awash with m-commerce news from every quarter. While there is much assessing how much m-commerce is worth and is going to be worth, what strikes me is how much transformation there has been in what m-commerce actually means today.

In the ten years since the launch of the smartphone, m-commerce has gone from being buying annoying ringtones (Crazy Frog anyone?) to being all about artificial intelligence, augmented reality, frictionless payments, chatbots, omni-channel retailing, the death of the high street and paying for things from the touchscreen in your car. For heaven’s sake, Marmite has gone mobile to build brand engagement rather than old fashioned awareness.

All this is laudable, of course, but what it really points to is the hugely disruptive effect the iPhone and its ilk has had on the balance of power betwixt retailers and consumers.

In the old days consumers were more or less guided by which products retailers wanted to sell them and what price they want to sell them for.

In the smartphone era, that has been completely reversed. Now the consumers demand what they want and the price they are going to pay for it and have shaped the way retail works.

This transformation is great for the consumer – it democratises shopping, is the total capitalist ideal when it comes to pricing and it sees customers (hopefully) getting what they want. But for retailers it is a nightmare.

As I have said already this year, trying to keep up with customer demands in the smartphone era is impossible. The costs alone make it prohibitive. But what this is really about is customer service. Shoppers largely (I am the only exception I fear) don’t sit about thinking “if only I could talk to a chatbot”… rather they tend to either go where they know they are going to get a superb experience or will expect to have an excellent experience wherever they go.

This is the unforeseen side of the mobile commerce revolution. Everyone saw that it would make e-commerce more immediate and convenient. Some saw that it might tie the online and real worlds together. No one expected it to change how shopping works on such a profound level.

However, this isn’t the only transformative aspect of the smartphone revolution. The changing mores of the shopping public has ushered in a new era of commerce that transcends mobile and online. Amazon Go, as I have said many times, totally changes the game. Shopping becomes a totally different thing. But the changes don't end there.

This week’s news from Jaguar that users of its lovely cars can now, if they have a Shell app, pay for fuel from the touch screen in their car with PayPal shows just where this is all going.

Mobile commerce and mobile payments isn’t going to be about retailers per se, its going to be about everything. Everything will be simple and connected. Buying things will just happen where they are consumed, on whatever screen is to hand.

Combining this and Amazon Go style tech means that we perhaps never pay for things again, we just grab and go.

And that too fundamentally changes m-commerce again. On the 20th anniversary of the iPhone I image we will be laughing at how we used to use phones, tablets and computers to shop. Instead we will be just engaging and consuming wherever we are… or we may be living in post-apocalyptic wasteland, but that’s for another day.
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