The market is now flooded with research showing the integral role mobile can play in the future of multichannel shopping. Smartphones are becoming the device of choice, with 63.3 per cent (31.3 million) of the total mobile population owning one – up from 24.3 million who owned one the previous year, according to comScore MobiLens.
Meanwhile tablet ownership among smartphone users is rising steadily with six million of smartphone users in the UK also owning a tablet in November 2012, compared to 2.5 million in 2011.
Apple and Amazon continue to lead the market, with each clocking up over 10,328,552 and 5,315,752 unique visits respectively to their combined apps and mobile sites during November last year, according to comScore.
Mobile search has long been viewed as an important part of the media mix, but there is now increasing evidence to show people are becoming more confident making high-end transactions via their devices rather than using them predominantly for researching purchases they will later make on desktop computers.
An average 5.7 million phone users made online purchases via their device between May and July last year, nearly half of which spent between £21 and £100, and 13 per cent spending over £250, according to MobiLens figures.
eBay’s senior director of mobile commerce, Europe, Olivier Ropars, believes mobile commerce is revolutionising retail and paving the way for a new, seamless, multichannel experience. “Consumers now carry a global store in their pocket and our research shows they check their mobiles around 40 times a day. That’s 40 opportunities for retailers to engage with potential customers, while the ability to shop on the move increases the likelihood to spend,” he says.
On eBay.co.uk an item is bought every second via a mobile device and downloads of the app have topped 100 million globally. It generated $13bn in global mobile transactions in 2012 and is predicting that to grow to $119bn by 2015.
Ropars reckons mobile is the medium through which retailers can present interactive shopping experiences, whether it be via augmented reality, image recognition or location services, for consumers who expect anything, anytime, anywhere. These technologies present a potential boost of £2.4bn for the retail industry by 2014, he adds.
The retailer thinks “mobile-first”, according to Ropars and has invested heavily in new technologies and shopping experiences, including improving the search experience on the eBay Motors and eBay Fashion apps with image recognition.
“The future of retail is not about shopping online or shopping offline, it’s about multichannel. Consumers increasingly expect an immersive and seamless brand experience, from beginning the shopping journey on a mobile on the morning commute, to browsing on a tablet over lunch and reading reviews on a desktop in the afternoon, then buying on a mobile on the way home and picking up an item in store. Mobile is the glue that brings these online and offline experiences together,” says Ropars.
Domino’s has also invested significantly in mobile, and has since reported a 187 per cent surge in sales generated via mobile devices, accounting for 19.7 per cent of all online orders.
Paul Francis, head of commercial systems at Domino’s, says the majority of that 19.7 per cent come via Apple devices. “[Most] of those orders come through either an iPhone or iPad. Android usage is static, while Windows Phone is growing. Mobile web still accounts for 14 per cent of mobile sales which just goes to show, it’s not all about native apps. One thing is for sure – there is a clear shift in consumer behaviour where mobile is the channel of choice,” he says.
Meanwhile John Lewis, which is the seventh biggest UK mobile retailer with 764,461 unique mobile visitors (source: comScore GSMA MMM November 2012) has been one of the most active retailers to date in the mobile space, and has claimed smartphone and tablet shopping is generating triple- digit growth, both in terms of traffic and revenues. It has also used devices to link its online and offline customer journeys although it is yet to determine the exact influence mobile has on offline sales.
Yet a large number of retailers are yet to match consumer mobile adoption with investment, meaning over 60 per cent of brands still lack a mobile-optimised site, according to research from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB). Agencies believe this is partly due to difficulties in tracking mobile usage, leaving some brands unsure as to what ROI they can predict from mobile.
However, there are developments afoot which will provide valuable insight into mobile media consumption for brands and agencies. The UK Online Measurement company (UKOM) and comScore have paired up to launch a digital ad planning tool designed to give a unified view of media consumption across the web, mobile and video. This collaboration means marketers will have access to a single data set from which they can track and plan display advertising across all three platforms, providing them with an unduplicated overview of reach and frequency.
One of the biggest developments in the mobile space to date is Weve, the mobile marketing and wallet joint venture between EE, O2 and Vodafone. This consortium marks the first collaboration between the mobile networks to bring mobile marketing and payments to the mainstream.
The B2B venture will use the opt-in consumer data of the network shareholders to offer customers more relevant marketing services including location- based SMS messaging, and in future, mobile display advertising services.
Weve will also create a standardised mobile payment platform through which banks and payment firms can more easily integrate to offer mobile wallets to consumers across multiple handsets. It is this latter part that could have a huge influence on mobile commerce in future.
Weve’s marketing director Tony Moretta said the speed at which consumers have adopted smartphones has outpaced the market. “There has been a lot of talk around mobile payments, lots of ideas and trials, but not so much actual implementation due to some of the barriers. Weve has been established to tackle these barriers. It’s a very unusual step for mobile operators to collaborate in this way but they recognise the need for a common technical platform which can be used to achieve the necessary scale to bring both mobile marketing and payments to the mainstream,” he says.
It is collaborations like this that could finally see mobile reach its full potential, giving advertisers a standardised platform through which they can run mobile campaigns at scale and making mobile wallet payments available to the masses. Weve is hoping to encourage other operators to join and if it succeeds it could usher in a new era for mobile.
This feature is published as part of The Drum's mobile supplement, sponsored by Millennial Media.