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Online retail sales are being driven by the larger screen sizes on newer smartphones, according to the latest e-retail sales index from IMRG and Capgemini.
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The latest study reported that online retail in 2016 was fuelled by the continued growth of sales made on smartphones.
In December 2016, sales made through smartphones were up 47% year-on-year (YoY). In contrast, sales made on tablets were down 3% YoY.
Smartphones also accounted for 54% of mobile device sales in December, with tablets accounting for the other 46%.
Andy Mulcahy, editor at IMRG, said along with the shift in buying habits from using tablets to using smartphones, many retailers made a “massive investment” in their mobile sites.
This made it far easier for people to make purchases via their phones rather than a laptop or desktop computer.
Bhavesh Unadkat, principal consultant in retail customer engagement design at Capgemini, said: “Few would have anticipated the decline in sales made on tablets, with sales made through overall mobile devices generating more than 50% of visits.
“Combined with the sweeping growth of both visits and conversions from smartphones, mobile continues to head towards being the number one sales channel,” he said.
Sean McGee, director of e-commerce at Schuh, said screen size is what matters, with uplifts in e-commerce sales correlating with the introduction of larger screen smartphones. “The bigger the screen, the better the conversion rate,” he added.
According to IMRG’s index, sales from mobile devices lifted with the introduction of the iPhone 6 in 2014. Samsung similarly lifted mobile e-commerce sales in 2016.
According to Mulcahy, while online-only retailers focused on optimising their mobile sites, in 2016 multi-channel retailers invested in click and collect delivery services.
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Capgemini’s Unadkay said among the areas retailers will need to consider in 2017 is how to track and measure sales that bridge online and in-store purchasing.
“How do you measure attribution of channel influence? We are starting to look at the value of the customer,” said Unadkay.
This will mean understanding the customer journey across different channels, with Unadkay expecting a greater focus on artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots to supplement customer service interactions.
Retailers are also likely to start experimenting with location-based customer service. If mobile represented the defining trend of retail technology in 2016, IMRG and Capgemini believe the next wave will be voice-based services, such as those now available with Alexa on Amazon’s Echo device.
The interaction of smart home technology, smart car technology and digital personal assistants such as Cortana, Siri and Alexa will have an increasingly important role to play in retail, according to Capgemini.