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GUEST OPINION UK retailers have a very mobile Christmas

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With the festive season rapidly approaching, bargain hunting has never been easier as customers can browse, compare prices and ultimately purchase gifts without ever having to brave the High Street, says Helmut Okike from Omlis.

Today an army of couch-based consumers are taking advantage of a new wave of optimized apps and websites that should make it easier than ever to fill Santa’s sleigh.

More and more consumers are relying on their mobile devices at some point in their shopping journey whether buying online at home, on the move or in-store, with one in three of all UK online sales now made via mobile device. From November 2013 to January 2014 mobile retail accounted for 32% of online sales1 and that figure is set to increase sharply as this year’s holiday season approaches.

On the 2014 Black Friday shopping day, UK shoppers spent £810m with a 57% increase in smartphone traffic year on year2. With so many consumers now adopting mobile shopping it is surely in the best interests of retailers to gain an understanding of the technology and develop effective solutions to maximize sales.

Shopping online

The uptake of mobile solutions can pose problems for retailers who are increasingly compelled to create an immersive shopping experience and keep up with fickle consumer trends to succeed, especially as holiday sales have been shown to account for up to 20 to 40% of their annual revenue3. Findings by Weve show that in 2013 Christmas shoppers in the UK spent an average of £245 each via a mobile device4, equivalent to an industry worth a staggering £3.8bn.

Mobile checkouts

Recognizing the importance of m-commerce as a part of a broader e-commerce strategy is a way that retailers can gain a competitive edge. Figures from Harris Interactive show that 47% of shoppers5 have abandoned purchases on mobile devices because of difficulty caused by sub-optimal payment and checkout experiences. Users turn to mobile checkouts for convenience and expect a seamless, rapid shopping experience. Barriers to purchases such as extensive forms and compulsory fields leave users unable to appreciate the ‘convenience’ of mobile and sees many either taking their business elsewhere or losing faith in the method entirely.

Compatible websites

Customers are increasingly coming to expect dynamically designed sites and apps to support their buying journey. Websites that fail to function on a mobile device or deliver a less-than-perfect experience will deliver diminishing returns for retailers. UK-based electrical chain Currys are among those who’ve optimized for mobile – its mobile site is ranked highest out of the UK’s top 20 retailers6. Other exemplars of best practice include online retailer Firebox and clothing brand Burton who’ve worked hard build a good mobile perception of their brands and keep customers coming through the virtual doors.

Retailer John Lewis, who have become synonymous with the holidays for their ad campaigns, have also taken note. Significant focus has been placed on developing the company’s mobile strategy with more enhancements planned for its app set to be released just in time for Christmas. The effect of this proactive approach has been highlighted in a 2014 report by EPiServer7 which acknowledges the retailer as offering the best consumer mobile shopping experience, closely followed by Argos and Amazon UK.

UK leads the way

Failing to keep up with trends in mobile payment solutions could prove very costly during the holidays. There is an increased demand from consumers for improvements, resulting in many turning to online shopping as a more convenient, affordable alternative to brick-and-mortar stores. Adobe estimate that the UK was at the forefront of retail e-commerce spending8 in the run up to Christmas 2013, with a quarter of all online sales taking place in this period. Coupled with findings from the IMRG, which show that UK mobile payments grew by 138% across last year, it’s clear that 2014’s holiday season will be defined by m-commerce.

Shopping in-store

As smart devices become integral to the shopping experience, the only way for physical retailers to engage tech-savvy customers this Christmas is to ensure that mobile payment options are available at the point of sale in store. According to a 2013 Google/Nielsen study, effective adoption can be a positive influence as 93% of consumers10 who are able to research a retailer’ss products on a mobile device will make a purchase, most from a physical store.

So how can stores keep up with the consumer demand for higher quality mobile solutions? The most effective method is to adopt new technologies such as NFC (Near Field Communication) and MPoS (mobile point-of-sale). These methods allow a quick, convenient consumer journey and can be used to create a more immersive shopping experience, which is increasingly essential during the heavily-competitive festive period.

Beacon technology

This year, beacon technology has been implemented by the Swan Centre – an Eastleigh-based shopping mall, which is a first for the UK. Implemented by technology start-up TagPoints, beacons have been integrated into the store’s loyalty app. So far they have signed up brands including WHSmith and Nandos to the scheme, allowing them to test out the benefits of tracking customer shopping habits and rewarding them in real time. This technology is ideal for guiding people through their Christmas shopping journeys and incentivizing purchases through suggestions and discounts.

Mobile point-of-sale

Electrical goods specialist Casio is preparing to introduce an MPoS service for customers. Adopting retail technology company PMC’s Store Enabler tool across its UK stores, Casio are able to transform their website into a mobile point of sale service which can scan items, take secure payments and provide receipts anywhere within the store. The adoption of a mobile point of sale creates a much more streamlined approach to shopping for consumers, helping to reduce the dreaded queues associated with the holidays and also allowing more choice in how customers pay for those all-important presents.

Fraud and the Omlis solution

Whether using a mobile device to buy online or make a purchase in store, one of the largest barriers to the acceptance of mobile payments is the threat of fraud. While many people are willing to shop on their mobile devices, there are still those skeptical about data security with 24% of UK residents11 having serious concerns over the safety of m-commerce.

leads to complacency within the retail sector as traditional cash and card payments are still the go-to method for many consumers when visiting physical stores. Retailers must educate themselves on how to provide secure mobile payment solutions so that they can gain the trust of their consumers and benefit from the ever-growing m-commerce market.

In response to these concerns Omlis, offers retailers and their service providers the capability to quickly deploy fully-secure high integrity mobile payment applications. The flexibility and security Omlis’ payment protection solution offers ensures that however a retailer decides to accept payments this Christmas, there will be no nasty surprises for the consumer.

With the use of mobile payment solutions growing year on year it falls to both physical and online retailers to adopt these methods and facilitate consumer convenience whether they are shopping on the High Street or browsing in bed. The unstoppable rise of m-commerce looks set to continue into Christmas 2014 and will play a key role in how people stuff their stockings this year and in the years to come.

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