Business Technology

Shopping on the move: Retail goes mobile

4 min read

03 January 2014

Mobile devices are currently in the process of changing the face of shopping, with more people turning to their smartphones when deciding on what to buy whilst out and about.

The world has gone portable – modern life is now so “on the move” the whole time that everything from banking to watching films can be done on your phone as you walk the streets.

But it would be wrong to think that mobile devices are now being used strictly as an alternative to visiting the store.

A study by Retail Customer Experience showed that 55 per cent of smart phone users used their mobile device to price compare when they were actually in store, which tells us that consumers are now taking advantage of the higher levels of transparency that the mobile platform offers – you can’t always get all the details you need just by picking up what’s on the hanger.

In response, retailers now have to focus on optimising their websites for mobile use. You can’t halt progress.

Although traditional sites will be visible on these devices, the poor navigation tends to create a bad user experience, resulting in lower conversions and demonstrating that the mobile optimisation of a website should never be an afterthought.

The world of mobile shopping is relatively old news to many UK retailers, for example Scarborough based fashion retailer Mainline Menswear: they launched their mobile site all the way back in May 2012. And it worked – in the space of six months mobile traffic grew by 46 per cent and now forms over 40 per cent of their total online visitors. This wasn’t just idle traffic either – the Mainline Menswear mobile site has accounted for 35 per cent of total web revenue since the launch.

Apple are leading the charge of the mobile revolution, and it seems its Apple users are leading the traffic to Mainline mobile as well – 80 per cent of mobile traffic that comes to Mainline Menswear is from Apple products, and on top of that there have been 1.8m visits from iPad users since May 2011.

As well as traffic benefits, the success of the mobile launch has also opened up more jobs at Mainline Menswear because of increase in business – could mobile optimization help companies provide more work in online retail, maybe even improving the economy in the process?

In the midst of all this, Kevin Lynch (Adobe’s CTO) told us that “we really need to shift now to start thinking about building mobile first. This is an even bigger shift than the PC revolution.” This could well mean we’re facing a possible redirection of the online consumer world, one which may see mobile sites overtake their stationary counterparts.

With that in mind, it seems integral for retailers to remember the role mobile shopping plays. Dark Reading tells us that 30 per cent of online purchases that took place between November 29th and December 2nd in 2013 (otherwise known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday) were done from a mobile device – this is a huge 150 per cent increase from the same period last year. With surges in mobile use like this it would be unwise for retail-based business not to optimize their sites accordingly.

So what now? Well, to ignore the fact that it’s an increasingly portable world we live in would be disastrous for businesses. The lesson? Don’t get left behind!

Andy Hoyle is the Head of Online Marketing at Mainline Menswear, and has been with the online designer menswear retailer since 2010, overseeing the successful launch of their mobile site and their blog.