I want it and I want it now! How that once simple device you thought was the exclusive domain of the 80’s yuppies has become the single biggest driver of the retail revolution.
That device you carry around with you all the time, the one that never leaves your handbag, your back pocket, is in the car with you, the thing you pick up along with the keys and wallet when leaving the house? Whether it be Apple, Samsung, Nokia, HTC – and there are plenty more – whatever your preference for brand, that smartphone in your pocket is the single most powerful driver of change in retail that we have ever seen. And we’re only scraping the surface.
The proliferation of smartphones is driving a revolution, the pace and scale of which has never to date been witnessed. Not surprisingly, the majority of consumers cannot conceive of how their smartphone is revolutionising the way not only they will shop in the future but more importantly how retailers will engage with consumers now and in the future. And because of our geography, the UK is leading the world in not only mobile but in particular, the fulfilment of goods bought online, increasingly via mobile. In Q4 2012, mobile (tablet & smartphone) accounted for nearly 19% of all website traffic, by Q4 2013 this was up to nearly 27% * and increasing all the time. Indeed, that device which (for those of us old enough to remember) once could simply make phone calls and send & receive txt messages is rapidly becoming the only thing we need to carry with us. And not only that, we seem to be conducting a love affair with our smartphones. 75% of Americans admit to taking their phone to the bathroom (come on admit it, you do too!), As of 2013, worldwide mobile phone internet user penetration was 73.4%. By2017, figures suggest that more than 90% of internet users will access online content through their phones.
This trend is hugely significant and has far reaching implications for retailers and perhaps the key aspect of all this mobile usage is not necessarily linked to the consumer searching for and converting – making a purchase. It is radically changing the way we communicate with and perceive retail brands. Millennials are totally different to the baby boomer generation in their wants, desires and especially, their expectations. They are used to influencing the world around them and they expect that world to respond to their inputs in ways never before envisaged. And whilst the technology platforms to facilitate all this activity (wifi, 4G, better smartphone battery life, apps) are developing at a pace it is simply not keeping up with the runaway levels of expectation amongst many consumers.
Collaboration, engagement, experience, brand immersion, always-on are now the keywords by which retailers must shape their businesses and in turn this is challenging their traditional business models which have existed for decades. All of a sudden, departments which traditionally have worked alongside each other must now work together in a completely integrated fashion.
And what does the future look like for those who either fail to grasp this or have simply either missed the boat or have neither the ability nor the wherewithal to change? In a word: bleak. The environment is changing at such an alarming – and exciting – rate that in the seemingly blink of an eye more well known retail brands will fall by the wayside. The next decade will be one of seismic change in retail and I for one can’t wait.