On the back of Alibaba’s $2.6bn bid to acquire Chinese mall operator, Intime, Saima Alibhai at Bronto Software looks at the current state of mobile commerce in the UK and what the next stage of mobile commerce and innovation will bring for consumers.
Alibaba recently put in a bid of $2.6 billion for Intime, a major local Chinese department store chain, showing that even the ecommerce titans have realised the need to connect ecommerce, mobile commerce and physical stores to give consumers the convenience they crave and secure their business for the future. You must meet the expectations of the ever-connected consumer or risk losing business to the competition. Recent research from Euclid Analytics reinforces this shift in consumer behaviour – 83% of consumers use their smartphones while shopping in a physical store. The task of bringing these channels together and providing a seamless, meaningful customer experience can be daunting, but thanks to the latest innovations in digital assistants, virtual reality and biotechnology, mobile commerce can be the key to linking online and in-store shopping experiences.
The Digital Shopkeeper
Mobile commerce is more than just smartphones. The likes of Google, Apple and Amazon have all been busy working on digital assistants in the form of Google Assistant, Siri and Alexa, respectively. Google’s new smartphone, the Pixel, has debuted a new look for its assistant, where users interact with it through an instant messaging platform instead of speaking to their phone. And it’s no coincidence that Amazon has also been hard at work on upgrades to Alexa, which has enabled the ecommerce giant to move into people’s cars.
The real prize, though, will be when retailers are able to offer consumers the opportunity to chat to a digital shopkeeper. Interfacing with a retailer’s AI chatbot to buy a certain product could actually be faster than navigating through their website. For retailers, a chatbot would allow them to provide a more useful service by offering suggestions based on customer shopping behaviour much earlier in the purchasing process, rather than the more reactive process that has been used to date.
A New Mixed Reality
Consumers can look forward to retailers beginning to experiment more frequently with virtual reality shopping environments, and smartphones provide the most fertile platform for this technology. Most adults in the UK already have a smartphone capable of displaying VR, and a VR headset can easily be created from cardboard. This creates a great opportunity for retailers to grab. Alibaba took the leap when it launched Buy+, which enables Chinese consumers to shop in department stores around the world. The tech provides an in-store feel to the international shopping possibilities afforded by purchasing online.
Virtual reality’s more grounded cousin, augmented reality, enables retailers to overlay digital information with a consumer’s phone camera. In these situations, consumers can access additional information on products in-store by holding their phone up in front of the item. The technology also paves the way for consumers to see what clothes would look like on while shopping at home online. By pointing their phone’s camera at a mirror, the retailer’s app would be able to overlay a digital outfit over the consumer’s reflection.
Fingerprints Unlock Faster Shopping
In the UK, iPhones are a favorite smartphone, making up 47.6% of phones in the region. And most of now feature fingerprint-based unlocking and, through Apple Pay, digital payments. Retailers have been quick to see the benefits of Apple Pay in-store, but incorporating Apple Pay into online purchasing has taken a little longer. As more Android phones begin to feature fingerprint scanning, retailers looking to speed up mobile shopping can use Apple Pay to implement a one-click process for confirming a shopping basket through to sending the receipt. This meets consumer need for a quicker, more convenient checkout process, which reduces hesitation and also offers improved security.
With the European Banking Association pushing for retailers to add in a password or code for any purchases over €10, this will add in an extra step for ecommerce offerings on a PC. This addition of biometric security measures on mobile could make this channel the quickest way to buy.
Ultimately, by beginning to use different technologies to facilitate convenient shopping across all platforms and at all stages of the purchasing journey, retailers will unleash the true power of mobile commerce. Being able to offer the most effective and exciting shopping experience, wherever their customers happen to be, is of the utmost importance to forward-thinking retailers. And as mobile shopping becomes quicker and more secure, and as our lives become saturated with the latest devices, it will be interesting to see what’s next for commerce technology.
By Saima Alibhai
Practice Manager, Professional Services