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iPhone at 10: the starting gun of the m-retail revolution

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Today marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone going on sale – and in effect kicking off the mobile commerce revolution. Ten years on and how we shop and interact with brands and each other has been transformed. And this week’s M-Retailing is an object lesson in how that one device has changed our retail world.

Were it not for the iPhone and subsequent screens that followed quickly in its wake would we be debating the vital role that ‘experience’ now plays in retail?

Would we be seeing headlines calling for a mobile-first strategy as the only way to go?

Had the iPhone not come along, would we be talking about how mobile marketing is set to be massive and indeed how mobile wallets are improving the sharing of coupons and loyalty offers?

Certainly, were it not for the iPhone transforming retail, we might well have said goodbye sometime ago to Debenhams.

Probably not (though it is debatable that mobile commerce made ecommerce more attractive and that that has done for Debenhams – and others – but I digress).

One thing we most certainly wouldn’t be looking at in great detail is Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). In fact, the iPhone created apps and without that the whole mobile ecosystem would look totally different.

When the iPhone came out, the idea of apps was novel and new and on that first day all those years ago, no one could imagine how vital they would be, nor how they would grow and adapt and change. They even created new businesses – Uber and aidbnb wouldn’t exist without apps.

PWAs are the latest iteration of apps and mark, I think, a key moment in mobile commerce, neatly timed to arrive 10 years on from the device that started it all. PWAs bring together the best of apps and the web and allow retailers to start to create mobile-based experiences around their retail proposition reasonably simply and, crucially, on a budget.

In time, I am sure PWAs will become seen as something akin to web scraping (remember that?) as a short cut to delivering something really useful, but for now PWAs offer retailers the tool they need to deliver compelling mobile experiences.

And their importance cannot be under-estimated. One unexpected upshot of the iPhone et al has been to rapidly change customer expectations – and when I say rapidly, I mean at unprecedented speeds. Changes to the iPhone OS and UI themselves happen annually and dramatically and each iteration brings very new behaviours. And consumers keep pace, retailers sadly find it more tricky.

This is why PWAs offer a much needed fillip to retailers, allowing them to create experiences that work across devices and across screens, that work on and off line and which are quite easy to do. In fact, our list of why PWAs are the man of the moment show just how vital they are at this juncture in retail.

But what of the next 10 years? Today the Apple sells 400 iPhones globally every minute and there are many other smartphones on the go. Even the North Koreans have their own smartphone, the Jindallae 3 (no relation to Internet Retailing’s own Ian Jindal, I am assured) and mobile commerce continues to take over chunks of ‘traditional’ ecommerce and high street retail – where it will end, is hard to tell. In the coming years we will see far more tie up between online and real world retail driven by mobile. We will also, very soon, see more VR and AR driven by smartphones. Apple is rumoured to be about to drop AR glasses and Google has revamp its ‘defunct’ Google Glass with new firmware and a companion app: smart eye wear is back on the agenda as the next step in mobile commerce.

Verbal interaction is already making inroads into homes and we are likely to see way more of this – interacting not just with a pod at home, but with the phone itself, your glasses and, more importantly, in store devices and street furniture.

All of these things, like PWAs in the here and now, are an incremental set of evolutionary steps in the change in mobile retail. Whether in the next 10 years we see a revolutionary shift that the iPhone brought about remains to be seen, but take a moment to think about how that one device has changed your life. It truly was a revolution – and one that keeps on giving.

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