The continued national roll-out of 4G and wider adoption of free wifi by high street retailers and supermarkets will make 2014 the year that m-commerce finally joins the mainstream, writes Paul Mcgann, director at shopper marketing agency, Brass.

Recent figures from eMarketer suggest that mobile commerce sales alone are expected to top £17 billion by 2017, with an estimated 38.4 million people in the UK browsing products on smartphones or tablets this year.

Digital retail sales will account for 11.5 per cent of UK total retail sales this year, one of the highest in the world. The growth of the mobile web has surpassed the pace of adoption of any form of technology in history and is growing eight times faster than web adoption did in the 1990s and early 2000s. In the UK, more than half of us now own a smartphone and over 6.5 million of us regularly access retail stores on it.  But those figures are set for explosive growth.



Mobile devices will continue to drive shopper behaviour as consumers use them to price check, access product content, view recommendations and explore social media to inform their purchase decisions. According to Google, 84% of smartphone shoppers use their phones while in a physical store. This trend won’t just generate online sales but will transform the way that consumers shop in a multi-channel world. Retailers are increasingly enabling shoppers to buy in-store, at home or the go and then have the products delivered or available for pick up.

Apps now allow mobile behaviour to influence bricks-and-mortar shopping through mobile payment, augmented reality and store check-ins creating targeted interactive in store experiences. If showrooming was a concern in 2013, the growth of mobile shopper behaviour and the information it provides will see big data enabled, highly targeted retail marketing taking its place on the high street.

Topshop recently launched an augmented reality shopping tool, Topshop Kinect, that helps customers try on outfits without a dressing room. The augmented reality changing room was trialled in the Moscow store, using Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect software to create virtual mirrors. We suspect the next step will be to deliver timely and relevant offers through the app and drive product awareness through incentivising social sharing.

As traditional retailers embrace m-commerce we also see digital pure-players such as Amazon moving onto the high street with physical stores. The role of stores will begin to polarise; either with a greater focus on experiential shopping, where they are a place to be immersed in a rich product experience, or to where stores are just the most convenient place to grab your online purchases on the way home from work.  ASDA are trialling Drive Thru stores where you can click and collect your weekly groceries without even leaving the car.

Other retailers, such as Tesco, are experimenting with mobile shopping experiences that allow commuters to scan images while travelling that will order groceries to be delivered to their home. Increasingly traditional perceptions of a shopping experience will change and where, when and how we shop will be challenged.

2014 will be the year that forward thinking retailers, see mobile not just as another retail channel but instead, as a personal gateway to the shopper that can inform, inspire and excite by enabling a richer and more targeted experience.

Paul McGann is director at shopper marketing agency, Brass in Leeds.