Smartphones can save the high street

Last updated: 19 March 2014

Reporting live from the MMA EMEA Forum in London, mobile is naturally at the core and forms a connection point to all devices. And the good news is that there has been a huge amount of progress in mobile marketing over the last five years. Did you know, for example, that smartphone penetration in the top five markets across the EU is up by 64%? Or that tablets have achieved 250% growth in only 12 months? (In the UK alone, tablet penetration has increased by 450%!)

We all know that the mobile device continues to dominate consumer lives. Research earlier this year showed that the millennial generation in particular would rather give up their car than their smartphone or computer. However, the mobile is increasingly becoming the main device for product awareness. Just consider the number of Facebook Ads on your News Feed and then take note of how often you check Facebook on your mobile device.

Brands are recognizing that mobile is central to the purchasing decision and, by putting mobile first, brands can have better success. In fact, while many lament the rise of digital and omni-channel retailing and claim it is putting physical stores out of the business, this conference has been highlighting many case studies on how online can actually boost offline purchase, even driving footfall to an actual store. For example, many a customer will first check the item online and then go into the store to buy it.

However, there is still a floating audience that can be engaged with in-store. While mobile can bridge the gap between physical and digital, including the interaction with connected devices, the customer omni experience has to be driven by a multi-channel strategy.

What retailers and brands need to build on is the recognition that smartphones have become a channel for mobile retail, mobile payments, mobile commerce and more. The smartphone is not only shaping shopping behavior but also actually driving footfall to stores.

To be able to convert this footfall, however, retailers and brands need to put context, which we all know is king, into practise. While 27% of smartphone users can find a shop in their local area using geo localization, historical geo data is actually more critical in order to fine tune the customer’s experience.

So far, so good. It all sounds incredibly promising, doesn’t it? Well, there is a lot of excitement at this conference and everyone is brimming with enthusiasm. But what about apps I hear you ask? Indeed, mobile app penetration is highest in the US. The Chinese market is also significant but European growth is strongest, and apps are indeed winning against the web, especially at the evening when consumers are no doubt commuting home or don’t wish to fire up their laptops. That’s where mobile and tablets can gain the advantage.

Other channels that we’ve explored at the MMA Forum EMEA include NFC and QR codes, which are both still only making small inroads into the mobile and retailing mix. Mobile games are having some impact, however, as Richard Firminger of Flurry outlined in his presentation.

In short there are many opportunities in mobile marketing in EMEA (we’ll save other regional insights for another time) and it’s down to the brands, MNOs and retailers to start exploring them if they wish to remain relevant to their customers. 

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