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Getting ready for a mobile Christmas – and beyond

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As November mistily arrives, through the gloom retailers are readying for Christmas: and this year that means thinking mobile.

According to CJ Affiliate’s 2017 Holiday Intelligence Report, last Christmas saw a third of shopping over the holiday season come in via mobile across Europe. In the UK it was 44%. This year, it predicts, this is going to be even higher. This could well be the mobile Christmas that I have been writing about for the past decade.

But are retailers ready?

Well a glance through the news this week shows that, while ‘ready’ might be over-egging things a tad, many leading retailers are getting to grips with where mobile fits into their processes.

Debenhams, QUIZ and Harvey Nichols are all making headlines by diving into enhancing what they do with mobile to improve sales and customer experience.

Debenhams is perhaps the most interesting of the bunch. It has long lagged behind most retailers in terms of online and mobile services. Now it looks like it is going to leapfrog the pack. It has opted for, on the mobile side, progressive web apps (PWA) to create an app-like experience in a web environment, which should see its clunky app and frankly woeful m-website replaced by a super slick, experience driven offering that should put it at the forefront of what retailers can do with mobile.

QUIZ, meanwhile, has revamped its apps shifting them to a SaaS platform. On the face of it that seems a bit of a yawn, however, it marks a significant departure for retailers. Opting to SaaS its apps means that it can keep updating them with the latest features rapidly and easily. This model is perhaps how the blooming retail apps market is going to go: apps are great and once again becoming the popular way to shop. But keeping them updated with features is always a challenge.

Here Debenhams and QUIZ show how there are two ways to skin this cat. PWA and SaaS apps essentially achieve the same thing: rapid development and deployment of the latest features as they come on-stream and meet the changing needs of consumers. Each offers its own advantages, but they both deliver flexibility.

And flexibility is becoming key. Technology in the mobile space is changing so fast and customer demands are so fickle that this flexibility is now essential. These two retailers are pioneering how to adapt to survive in the mobile retail space.

Harvey Nichols is tackling the other great problem for retailers: understanding customer behaviour to create the right user experience. Allied to coping with changing customer mores, UX is another great challenge for retailers. Data mining and assessment of what people do when on your site and apps is also becoming crucial to creating the experience that customers demand.

While QUIZ and Debenhams have the technology in place to rapidly adapt, they too are going to have to follow Harvey Nichols example to understand what their customers are doing to adapt and change their apps and m-web services going forward.

But these retailers are, it seems, the exception. Where we report of how retailers aren’t addressing customer payment pain points in store and online from a report by Adyen, we uncovered – buried within Adyen’s report – some frankly scary stats. According to the report, 21% of retailers still have no online shopping option, driven by what they see as a lack of interest. The report does show that some 40% of shoppers have never purchased on an app and 75% have never shopped on social media.

This is frankly shocking. Alright, I get that shoppers haven’t discovered the joys of social shopping yet – but they will – however, 21% of retailers not offering a transactional site? That, with a mobile Christmas approaching, is as frightening as Hallowe’en. These companies are becoming tier two retailers and will suffer as a consequence. It won’t be a happy Christmas for them.

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