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Growing consumer demand for mobile prompts massive investment in new multichannel platforms as retailers look to integrate everything

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The need to offer mobile services to shoppers is spurring a massive investment in new e-commerce platforms and an increased interest in fully fledged multichannel retailing that will revolutionise retail in the next two years. So says Mark Adams, sales and marketing director of PortalTech on the eve of the publication of the company’s second annual e-commerce research that M-retailing has gained exclusive access to.

The new research from eDigitalResearch and PortalTech – which comes a year after the pair’s ground breaking insight into mobile retail last summer, as reported here – finds that 48% of smartphone users are now regularly shopping using the devices, up 13% in just nine months. Shopping via smartphone web browsers has increased, by 5.8 %, whilst researching and browsing via Smartphone web browsers has significantly increased by 14.3%.

Shopping via apps has increased by just over 4%, whilst researching and browsing via apps has significantly increased by 14.34%. Smartphone owners have also increased the use of their phones for researching and browsing at home, out and about and in store to compare products and prices. And the number of smartphone owners who said they expected to browse or purchase more on their phones in the next 12 months more than doubled to 46%.

Interestingly, in this increasingly online age, the study found an increased percentage of smartphone users who shop weekly by catalogue, more than doubling from 3.6% to 8%. However, it is interesting to note that 13.2% of smartphone owners used catalogues to browse for items, compared with a staggering 48.7% who use mobile websites and apps for the same purpose, indicating that many consumers are using browsing on their smartphone as a mobile catalogue for early shopper decisions.

But the research also finds that, while mobile shopping is up and that e-commerce has grown by nearly 6% over the same period, smartphone owners are shopping considerably less in high street shops, with visits to bricks and mortar outlets dropping to 56.6% from 72.7% as consumers adapt to the most convenient and useful channel for browsing and purchasing needs.

And this message is getting through to retailers. PortalTech – which can’t at this stage name names, but there are some big announcements to come – is finding that many leading retailers have, in deciding that they need to add in full mobile commerce capabilities, decided to totally replace their e-commerce platforms to make them totally multichannel. This move marks an attempt to offer a joined up experience for the consumer across all channels in the hope that no one channel will gain at the expense of the others and protect investment in bricks and mortar and call centres.

In Adams view, the ground work has been done with mobile and that has led to a radical rethink of the entire e-commerce business. “Just having a mobile site is not enough, retailers have to think of mobile as an integral part of a multichannel strategy – and that has to drive footfall and ARPU, in stores, as well as increase electronic sales,” he says. “Your service no longer has to just be better than your competitors, but it has to be better integrated with what you already do, and often that means investing in a new platform.

This move to massive increase in investment and development around multichannel can be seen in two distinct phases, believes Adams. “Phase one saw mobile become transactional on any device and part of the overall plan for retailers. Phase two will see the creation of better user experience across all channels driven by this need to add mobile into the mix.”

But the real hard work has to be put into the backend. There has been a lot of development around front end services such as wardrobes, and Look Book and making a mobile and online service that looks good, but the real work needs to first go into aligning the back office systems. Adding the window dressing should be the next stage.

And it is likely that we shall see more interesting multichannel offerings with some interesting mobile and mobile in-store parts in the latter half of the year.

Download the full research report here
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