Mobile IT investments key priority for retailers in 2013

Mobile platforms will be key area of IT investment for retailers this year, as companies seek to capitalise on the exponential growth of m-commerce in 2012

Mobile platforms will be a key area of IT investment for retailers this year, as companies seek to capitalise on the exponential growth of m-commerce in 2012.

Sales through mobile devices and tablets were up 304% on 2011, according to research from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index.

The research also found consumers spent £78bn at online retail stores in 2012, up 14% on the previous year. In December, online retail sales grew 17.5% year-on-year to £9.4bn. Online retail is expected to grow by 12% in 2013 to £87bn, it said.

Retailers and consumers commit to mobile

At a roundtable event organised by IMRG and Capgemini, retailers said they were investing significantly in mobile this year.

Barry Wyse, director of e-commerce at home accessories store The White Company, said the retailer was investing a considerable amount to improve the mobile experience for customers.  

Ashley Payne, head of digital operations at Debenhams, told Computer Weekly that mobile would be a key part of its IT strategy this year.

“Investment in mobile is an area that will continue to increase,” he said. “We need to start thinking about what point desktop sites will be less important to the consumer.”

Chris Webster, head of retail and technology at Capgemini, said mobile had been a stand-out area of growth. 

“Visits and sales from either a smartphone or a tablet device are nearly four times higher than last year. We are reaching a point where we are spending longer on our phones shopping than making calls," he said.

According to the research, sales conversion rates for mobile are now 2.3% of consumer browsing, compared to 4.6% for e-retail. In the first quarter of 2010 sales via mobile devices represented just 0.4% of all online spend, compared with13.2% in the third quarter of 2012, said IMRG.

Tina Spooner, CIO at IMRG, said retailers which had invested in mobile sites were reaping the benefits of increasing mobile commerce.

“We’re hearing that tablets are really driving mobile commerce,” she said.

High street presence no longer enough

Capgemini’s Webster said more retail stores must offer free Wi-Fi to customers, to capitalise on m-commerce in-store. “If you don’t intercept things like Amazon's app, consumers will buy from the lowest price online, using you as a showroom, but for someone else’s benefit,” he said.

Download additional resources on mobile technology for retailers

Companies must also concentrate on providing a consistent shopping experience between consumer devices, so if a customer adds an item to a basket using one device they can easily retrieve it through another, added Webster.

“This year, retailers will adopt a more connected retail model, merging the physical shopping experience with an online one, such as offering customers tablets to browse the internet while they compare products in store," he said.

Andrew McClelland, policy officer at IMRG, also noted that financial institutions were now looking unfavourably at retailers with a large physical store footprint, questioning whether they have too much store space as more consumer transactions are completed online.

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