UK retailers to focus on mobile IT investment this year

Mobile online sales soared 304 percent last year, say IMRG and Capgemini

United Kingdom retailers plan to focus their IT investments on mobile platforms, according to a roundtable sponsored by UK e-retail association IMRG and consulting firm Capgemini.

Mobile IT investment is being spurred by the explosion of mobile devices and tablets, according to a report by ComputerWeekly on the roundtable.

"Visits and sales from either a smartphone or a tablet device are nearly four times higher than last year. We are reaching a point where we are spending longer on our phones shopping than making calls," said Chris Webster, head of retail and technology at Capgemini.

Webster advised retailers to offer free Wi-Fi to customers in order to encourage consumers to buy items in the store. "If you don't intercept things like Amazon's app, consumers will buy from the lowest price online, using you as a showroom, but for someone else's benefit," he said.

Ashley Payne, head of digital operations at U.K. retailer Debenhams, told ComputerWeekly that mobile IT investment "is an area that will continue to increase. We need to start thinking about what point desktop sites will be less important to the consumer."

According to research conducted by IMRG and Capgemini, online sales in the U.K. using mobile devices increased a robust 304 percent in 2012 compared with 2011. Overall, online sales increased by a more modest 14 percent in 2012 compared with 2011, totaling £78 billion (or $125 billion)

For 2013, IMRG and Capgemini are predicting that the online retail market will grow at 12 percent, reaching £87 billion (or $139 billion) in sales.

Commenting on the 2012 figures, Webster predicted: "This year, we'll see the role of mobile devices evolve as retailers use the technology as the default channel to reach us and personalize our shopping experience, whether we're online at home, on the bus or even in store. Retailers will adopt a more connected retail model, merging the physical shopping experience with an online one, such as offering customers tablets to browse the internet while they compare products in store."

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