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Mobilising the merchandise (IRM51)

There can be no doubt that technology, especially mobile, is going to play a key role in in-store merchandising. While mobile and online shopping continue to grow, the draw of the High Street remains strong. Consumers don’t want an ‘either/or’ choice when it comes to being sold to, they want both. They want technology and they want the High Street. So how do you make that happen? Paul Skeldon investigates.

Across 2014, online shopping grew 14% to £104bn, according to IMRG and mobile, in some sectors, took 50% of this traffic. It seems, on paper at least, that 2014 was indeed an e- and m-commerce bonanza.

But the January sales tell another story. A recent study by VoucherCloud found that more than half of Britons (57%) chose to brave the high street to do the majority of their January sales shopping, rather than shop online. Clothing, furniture and technology items featured in the top five 2015 January sales purchases, with the average Briton spending a grand total of £295 on sale items.

Why? The majority (32%) told VoucherCloud’s surveyors that they enjoyed the experience of high street shopping, while 27% said they didn’t want to wait for delivery and 21% revealed that they wanted to see the products in person. A further 9% state that they enjoyed the chance to haggle face-to-face for extra discounts in-store.

All compelling reasons to not write off the high street and to perhaps assume that ecommerce is overhyped. But there is a very different story here. These shoppers may well be wanting to browse in the old fashioned way and finger the merchandise, but technology is playing a bigger and bigger role in what they do – perhaps even without them realising it.

The British Retail Consortium has logged double-digit growth across ecommerce – fixed and mobile – for January, with the sales leading the way. A study by performance marketing company Criteo suggests that 2015 is going to see a huge push by bricks and mortar retailers to invest in online tech as webrooming and showrooming are increasingly impacting sales.

This, then, is the thing about m-commerce in 2015: it is no longer a thing, but more part of the overall shopping experience. Things are definitely multichannel with mobile as

the linchpin.

According to Daryl Hughes, ecommerce head for the UK at Facebook, 50% of retail sales in store have at some point been influenced by digital technology. “This is a radical transformation of how all of us are increasingly discovering, connecting and engaging with the world,” he says. “Our mobiles are the remote control for our lives and provide [retailers] with the opportunity to connect with the people who matter to you at a scale we haven’t seen before.”

He continues: “These points of access, through mobile, despite the fact they bring some challenges, provide an amazing opportunity to get closer to the consumer in-the-moment when real purchase decisions are being made. And we believe that mobile is now at the heart of the shopping experience.”

However, the key is in making all this tech work together and giving a seamless experience. According to Criteo’s COO Eric Eichmann, “Enhancing cross-device capabilities will be a major focus as 58% of retail executives rank the technology as the most important of their 2015 mobile marketing efforts.”

This is backed up by tech company Ampliance, which works with Shop Direct, Tesco, House of Fraser and more. CEO James Brooke is adamant that it is no longer about having a great website or even a great app: it has to all work together and this is the challenge for retailers in 2015.

“When consumers have a wealth of offers to shop from online, a shopping experience that is efficient and seamless can make or break a sale over peak sales times, and convert customers beyond just any discounted period,” he says. “Retailers need to ensure that they can give shoppers adaptive user experiences, for example through content that automatically adjusts to different consumer devices, where a rapidly growing number of purchases are taking place. This helps retailers give shoppers the consistently good multichannel experience they are expecting in order to claim their market share of buyers.”


Many still fall short though, trapped in the either/or world of e- and m-commerce. The latest IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index shows that online sales in 2014 exceeded £100bn in the UK alone, the first time it has passed such a landmark figure. Last year also saw mobile browsing overtaking the desktop for the first time. Even though IBM analytic reports and IMRG Capgemini benchmark figures are clearly demonstrating that mobile devices have taken the lead for retail browsing, companies are struggling to keep pace. Recently Google has also recognised the mobile phenomena by ranking websites as ‘mobile friendly.’

According to figures from SciVisum, 70% of retailers’ websites tested by the company were not ‘mobile friendly’, while 20% of retail sites served up desktop pages to mobile devices and to cap it all, on Black Friday 4 out of 10 retailers did little or nothing to speed up page delivery – despite unprecedented demand.

InternetRetailing’s own IRUK Top 500 research has found that most retailers fall short on mobile: of the Top 500 only 169 have an app of those just 93 are transactional. Considering that mobile is the keystone to successful omnichannel retailing, the understanding of how to do it is woeful.

Getting it right is crucial as increasingly consumers are turning to their mobile devices to do everything from browsing to buying, research to reviewing and to check and amend deliveries. It is the key part of the whole retail process.

So, who is doing it right? According to our own Top 500 research the one to learn from is Argos. “Argos has clearly thought through its mobile and cross-channel operations,” says InternetRetailing researcher – and the brains behind the IRUK Top 500 – Martin Shaw. “Retail experts sometimes talk about mobile as if it’s not a separate channel anymore, their reasoning being that everyone uses their phones and tablets when it comes to researching and buying goods these days. Despite this, many retailers still have big gaps in their mobile offerings, or even no mobile offering at all, suggesting a big discrepancy between an understanding of best practice and implementation.”

Within the Top 500, the Elite group is completed by plus-size clothing retailer Evans and trainers and sports retailer JD Sports. “It’s significant that none of these retailers operates at the luxury end of the market, so often associated with state-of-the-art mobile offerings,” says Shaw. “It’s not just the well-to-do carrying the latest smartphones who are cross-channel shoppers, this is technology that’s gone mainstream.”

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