Of all the great benefits mobile phones have brought into our lives in the past few years, it seems one of the most popular for Brits is the ability to buy things over the internet no matter where they are.
While this may not be ideal for shopaholics with poor impulse control, the ability to pick up your smartphone and have an order from Amazon or eBay instantly winging its way to your door with just a few taps of your touch screen is great news for any busy people who need their shopping to be as convenient as possible.
And it seems Brits are more likely than anyone else in Europe to be browsing virtual stores on their handsets – and its set to make up a major part of our online economy this year.
Brits leading the way
Recent figures from RetailMeNot and the Centre for Retail Research show just how much Brits love getting online and using smartphones and tablets to make purchases. It claimed 28 per cent of people in the UK have visited a retail website via their phone in the last three months This puts us ahead of any other major country in Europe, as the average for the continent as a whole is 20 per cent.
And it's not just browsing – Brits are also expected to spend a huge £8 billion through their smartphones this year, accounting for nearly half of Europe's total. This means almost one pound in every five spent online will go through a smartphone this year.
Therefore, it's time for anyone doubting the potential of mobile shopping to sit up and take notice. History is littered with failed predictions related to the internet, and the dismissals of online commerce in the 90s – "nobody wants to buy a book online" – still haunt some people. And RetailMeNot has noted the trajectory of mobile shopping is looking very similar to the rise of e-commerce, so you can expect it to only grow.
It's easy to see the appeal of this to consumers. And the convenience offered by the best-performing mobile shopping options will drive this even further. Whether it's mobile-optimised websites or dedicated mobile apps, Brits are demanding the ability to shop simply and quickly – and with so many options available, they'll have a very low tolerance for stores that don't deliver this.
As smartphones get more sophisticated and more people pick up cheap tablets that offer all the functionality of a smartphone – but with a bigger screen so you can see what you're doing – it'll become even easier for people to reach for their gadget rather than booting up the PC when they feel a sudden desire to buy pointless knick-knacks off eBay.
The showrooming rise
But the transformation in the way Brits buy things is not just limited to completing purchases via a smartphone Because our mobiles are never far from our hands, this has also changed the way we think about browsing in bricks-and-mortar stores. As a result of this, 'showrooming' is a new concept that retailers are going to have to get to grips with due to the huge influence of mobile devices on our activities.
You might not know the term, but the chances are you've done it at some point – whether you were thinking about it or not. What it essentially boils down to is checking out an item in store, before heading to the internet to see if you can find a better deal on it. This offers several key benefits, as you get a chance to check out the look and feel of a product with your own eyes, rather than relying on photos on the website – great if you're worried about having to return products that you've misjudged the size of.
In the past, this might have involved taking some notes in store, such as jotting down a product number, then doing a search on your desktop or laptop when you're back home. But thanks to mobile devices, you can do this right from in front of the shelves. There are even apps such as barcode scanners that can give you an instant list of price comparisons. And if it does turn out you can't get it cheaper online, you can buy it there and then without worrying that you're missing out on a great deal.