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Is m-retail finally on the move?

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As the summer holidays approach, the last thing you probably want to think any more about than necessary is the daily commute. But the mind-numbing ride on the train or bus every day, twice a day, is starting to become the new way to shop. In fact commuting is looking likely to become the place where the m-commerce, marketing and m-payments circle is most virtuous.

More and more people are using their smartphones – and the occasional tablet – to browse and increasingly buy while sitting on public transport: let’s face it, it’d really boring and anything to lighten the mood is good, right?

This isn’t a new phenomenon by any means, but what used to happen is that people used their commute time to browse and bookmark and to look. Any actual purchasing was done later on a PC or at home or in a store – if at all.

However, this is changing. Research from Zapp and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) finds that nearly a fifth of all e-commerce shopping now takes place on the daily commute, with the average consumer spending £36/week on average, rising to £44/week for London commuters.

Clothing tops the shopping lists of most commuters: almost three quarters of Brits (71%) commuting via public transport report that they purchase clothing online during their commute on an average week, but 62% are buying their groceries and 60% buying take aways.

There is a definite swing towards shopping on the move on mobile. And this is interesting as its not simply about a shift from e- to m-commerce, its about the beginnings of the move towards a mobile purchase cycle that takes in marketing, browsing and payments.

More and more consumers are not only shopping on mobile on the commute, but they are starting to be ‘inspired’ by advertising that they see around them. This has inspired Transport for London (TfL) to invest in beacons on 500 London buses to help push ‘useful’ adverts to these mobile shoppers.

The move follows a successful trial in technology hotbed Norwich (a-ha!), which saw 30% of users clicking through from receipt of notification and 2000 app downloads.

The move is likely to help push consumers to do even more shopping on the train and bus. And this is where the circle closes: the easiest way to do this is not to whip out your credit card, but to use one click payments. As such, things such as Apple Pay and even Charge to Mobile (where the cost is added to your phone bill or comes out of your credit) will start to gain traction.

Research out in the US this week does suggest that many consumers are wary of one-click payment buttons as they fear they will lose control of their spending. But I contest that (a) commuters are way more sophisticated than that and (b) the convenience of it will win out.

Who thought the daily grind could be so interesting and vital to retail?

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