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E-retail reaches mobile tipping point

By Retail Technology | Tuesday September 24 2013

Latest Index figures confirm shift in consumer behaviour as online sales via desktop flatline and sales via mobile devices now account for all online growth

New figures from IMRG and Capgemini reveal a tipping point has been reached in online retail as the digitisation of the consumer has resulted in all online growth now coming from sales via mobile devices (smartphones and tablets).

It found that 23% of all retail sales were from mobile devices in the second quarter (Q2) of 2013. And, while total online retail has averaged around 15% growth, figures excluding mobile have seen a steady decline, flatlining in the same quarter (measured as from May to July).

Based on key performance indicators (KPIs) from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index and the IMRG Capgemini Quarterly Benchmarking Index, the organisations have, for the first time, been able to strip out all mobile data from overall online retail sales.

The findings represent a significant change in consumer behaviour, as UK online shoppers migrate from desktops and laptop computers to smartphones and tablet devices. IMRG and Capgemini have reforecast their growth prediction for 2013 – up from 12% to 15%.

In addition, while tablet devices account for 85% of mobile sales year-to-date, smartphones have seen a greater rate of growth, increasing year on year 210% compared with 130% for tablets during Q2 2013 over Q2 2012. 

Tina Spooner, IMRG chief information officer, stated: “Online retail is a sector that sometimes receives a strong boost from supporting technology and mobile is certainly providing that at the moment.”

Online shopping rides mobile wave

Spooner added that the latest findings, together with the continuing trend of triple-digit growth in mobile commerce, provide clear evidence of a culture change in digital shopping. 

“Smartphones and tablets offer the kind of experience the modern consumer wants – quick access, wherever and whenever they want it,” she said. “’Second-screening’ in front of the TV has turned online shopping into a leisure activity that is fully compatible with our home entertainment lifestyles.”

During a roundtable session last Thursday hosted by IMRG and Capgemini, retail attendees reported that, in terms of defining mobile technology, the lines are becoming increasingly blurred as tablets become smaller, smartphones get larger and laptops can be converted to tablet devices.

Kate Smyth, director of e-commerce at Dune, commented: “The findings from the IMRG study completely agree with what we have been seeing at Dune, mobile and tablets are becoming the dominant devices used to interact with a brand online. Mobile has been our priority for a while and the possibilities are really exciting.” 

Smyth reported: “We have a mobile version of the site, developed content designed for touch and we use mobile technology instore to help locate stock and reduce queues – but the roadmap for mobile and tablets is key as the devices become part of every household.”

Responding to developing trends

The e-retail trade body and systems integration consultancy presented their findings and discussed possible contributing factors to the emerging trend. They included: 

  • Accessibility: with increasingly affordable contracts, more people and a wider demographic of consumers have access to smartphone technology than laptops.
  • Convenience: fast and easy to shop online – one click of the button and shoppers are online and browsing. The ease of using a tablet device means that shoppers can casually browse online whilst engaged in other activity, such as watching television – typically visits via a tablet result in a higher number of pages per visit due to the leisurely nature of the interaction.
  • Confidence: shoppers are becoming increasingly confident in m-retail, particularly as retailers improve their mobile sites and user experience.

Chris Webster, vice president of consumer products and retail at Capgemini, commented: “As e-retail becomes ubiquitous, the annual growth in the Index has been slowly declining – 18% in 2010, 16% in 2011 and 14% in 2012. However, similar to the impact the introduction of broadband had on the Index in 2006, the access to new technology and connectivity has supported an increase in the rate of growth once again.

Optimising retail IT for m-commerce 

“The fact that more people are using mobile devices reflects the huge strides retailers have made in user experience and accessibility in m-retail sites.” 

However, he warned that retailers were still “only scratching the surface of the ways” mobile devices will develop to interact with digital services in consumers’ daily lives, adding: “Fingerprint identification available on the latest smartphones will increase trust and personalisation of these digital services.”

Neil Sansom, e-commerce director at Moss Bros, commented: “The growth figures emphasise the important of mobile commerce now and going forward. The days of just optimising full version sites are over and retailers are now going to have find new levels of skill to optimise mobile as part of the customer journey. 

"Tracking journeys across multiple devices and giving customers relevant content will be a new exciting challenge for e-commerce and it is sure to be the next frontier for retailers to embrace.”

The mobile data released today complements the latest E-Retail Sales Index figures for August released last week, which showed sales on the rebound following a poor July. 

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