EDITORIAL 15 years ago the iPhone was born and everything changed

iPhone: one of the few bits of tech to really change the world

iPhone: one of the few bits of tech to really change the world

Yesterday, 29 June, marked the 15th birthday of the iPhone, a device that, arguably, has totally sculpted the digital landscape into what we know and love today. It certainly changed the market for gum. Since the introduction of the first smartphone, US gum sales have fallen by 15%. Why? Because 15% of gum was purchased at supermarket checkouts by shoppers waiting their turn. Now, when bored, they simply turn to their phone.

And that’s if they are in the store in the first place. You could argue that the arrival of the iPhone and the app economy that it swiftly ushered gave nascent ecommerce the boost it needed. It certainly created mcommerce and arguably is one of the driving forces behind the rise of marketplaces.

A look through today’s InternetRetailing newsletter shows just how ingrained online shopping, especially on mobile, has become. Cash-strapped shoppers may be cutting back on their overall spending, but not on mobile. According to a report out this week, 59% of UK shoppers say they most frequently use their mobile to research or make purchases online, which is up from 51% in 2019. All other devices are trending downwards: laptops are down from 24% to 20%, tablets are down from 13% to 10%, and desktop computers are down from 11% to 8%. 

A prime example of this is through the phones large screen. 85% of consumers say that they now rely on video when shopping online, it being the link between products and buyers at the decision level. The fact that it is Gen Z that are the biggest proponent of video also cements its place as a mobile first phenomenon. And not only are these videos being looked at on mobile, but you can bet that many of them – and not just the user generated ones – are made on a smartphone.

Gifting company Moonpig, too, understands this. It has seen seen revenue grow 75.8% across two years, hitting £304m, with pre-tax profits up 40%. Across the year, the company delivered 39.8 million orders and has seen investment in technology pay dividends. App use grew by 43%.

Nike, once the laggard of the sports apparel and equipment market, has turned its fortunes around by delivering the kind of online experience that consumers demand – much of that through tech that can be used to link the physical and digital experience. This has seen everything from a shoe sizing app through to interactive content. As a result, Nike has increased revenues 5% to $46.7bn for the full year to 2022, with Nike Brand up 5% and its Nike Direct surging 14% off the back of 18% growth in Nike Brand digital growth.

Deliveroo, which is opening up its platform to advertisers so that they can target users at the point of purchase with offers and discounts also gets this. The prime channel it is offering to brands is on its app, especially the tracking part. 

Consumers will continue to receive a food-first experience in-app, says Deliveroo, and it intends to provide more space to enable restaurant and grocery partners to tell their story emotionally and effectively to Deliveroo consumers via the platform.

These are just retail industry stories from today. A look back through the annals of InternetRetailing would show just how pivotal mobile has become to ecommerce, to retail generally – and that is down to the iPhone. It created the world of apps, it changed forever how we consume music, video, books and TV. It has created a whole world of digital health and wellbeing, it plays a role in payments, data gathering, content creation. It has changed social media into something interactive and far wider reaching. It is also the basis of the content and access to the metaverse. 

Very few things can claim to have truly changed the world, but it did. It may have been bad news for gum sellers, but for the rest of us it has created so much more. Of course, all these changes we see now are due to all smartphones, not just Apple devices, but it all started with the iPhone, on 29 June 2007. Happy Birthday iPhone and here’s to who knows what changes lie ahead.

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