If retailers build it, will the shoppers come?

Will mobile shopping revolutionise our High Street? Miya Knights tries to find out…

Online shopping

COMMENT:Rather than present a reasoned argument on the potential success or failure of mobile shopping before coming to a conclusion about its future, I can tell you now no one knows.

No one knows if the increased activity and investment around mobile optimised e-commerce websites, mobile apps and the use of mobile devices in retail stores will increase sales, or just cannibalise them from other existing off or online channels.

Some advocate a mobile strategy that makes good use of SMS marketing, as well as the sexier smartphone-enabled development, to increase the scope of mobile retail penetration.

John Lewis is to offer customers free Wi-Fi in-store from The Cloud and House of Fraser is teaming up with O2 to do the same. This, coupled with the constant stream of retailer mobile app launches, can be taken as evidence that this hard-pressed sector is pulling out all the stops to accommodate the savvy smartphone shopper.

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Yesterday, I heard experts suggest that mobile sales were accounting for some 10 to 15 per cent of all e-commerce sales. But whether that was at the expense of other channels is something the retailers and their IT vendors alike are presently keeping very quiet about. Despite this, it is the e-commerce giants, like eBay and PayPal, who are keen to talk up the potential for mobile to extend business.

eBay's recently published Mobile Manifesto found just under half (49 per cent) of 2,000 UK consumers surveyed had used their smartphone to compare product prices and more than a third (36 per cent) had used mobile internet to buy a product. But sobering data from Kantar Worldpanel also serves as timely reminder this week that over 50 per cent of the UK population do not own a smartphone.

Some advocate a mobile strategy that makes good use of SMS marketing, as well as the sexier smartphone-enabled development, to increase the scope of mobile retail penetration. But that hasn't stopped PayPal for one predicting that, not only will we be shopping on our mobiles, but also that near-field communications (NFC) and e-wallet technology will make the traditional wallet obsolete.

Only time and consumer appetites will tell.

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