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EDITORIAL Mobile and marketplaces create new opportunities for all retailers

By Paul Skeldon January 21, 2019 - 12:33 am

The increasing mobility of shoppers – the move to shopping on the move – has been a long and slow development in retail, which has often been slow to react. While much of the retail industry still struggles to get to grips with people shopping online, consumers themselves have been busily shifting where they do that online shopping from desktops and laptops to mobile devices.

And the winners in this are already clear: Amazon, eBay and Argos – all of which were pioneers of understanding mobility and mobile commerce and have worked hard to create a mobile experience that is easy to use and taps in to the craving for convenience that shoppers desire.

This process has been the epitome of where retail is at in 2019: people still like going to stores, but they want something very different from that process than simply buying things. Buying things is now the preserve of the web – and increasingly mobile web and apps.

The research out this week from uSwitch is interesting but shouldn’t really be news: it is obvious that that is how shoppers shop and want to shop. If the research into habits doesn’t paint the picture, then the retailers that top the list of mobile retail sites should – they are the ones that work on mobile.

While there is an obvious argument for all retailers to up their mobile game ASAP, what this news perhaps more tells us is that there is once again highly compelling evidence that to reach shoppers where they want to buy, retailers and brands need to get on board with marketplaces.

Amazon and eBay are marketplaces. However, to all intents and purposes so are the other winners in this list – Argos, Tesco, Curry’s. These retailers all sell other people’s things through a single place: they are marketplaces.

The study by uSwitch tells us that the mobile future is here today, but it also clearly shows us that, driven by convenience and spontaneous shopping desire, marketplaces that are easy to use and offer a broad spectrum of goods are the way to deliver this.

It is far easier when reaching for the mobile to simply search Amazon, click on the app and search there for anything than it is to try and think who might sell what. As more brands and retailers get this and start to sell through marketplace sites, the more likely this is to be the way to deliver the convenience of mobile buying.

And it doesn’t have to mean the death of the retail brand. Just because it is easy to find it on Amazon on mobile, doesn’t mean the retail brand or the brand itself is dead. Far from it. The use of Amazon on mobile is, as stated, driven by convenience: The shoppers still want the brands they know, trust and love – they just want to be able to buy them as easily as possible on the mobile channel. The need to keep the brand values alive, the shops open, and goods rolling is still just as important as ever. Many may well have seen the things they want in a shop, on a TV show, in an advert or on the street… they just have decided at a different moment, when bored, to reach for their mobile, and have a looksee and possibly buy.

Rather than mistrusting this, retailers should embrace it: the ability to pick up a mobile while ideally watching TV or even sitting on the toilet is necessarily cannibalising a business, rather it provides a new opportunity to sell that didn’t exist before. And in these uncertain economic times, surely that can only be a good thing?

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