I’m dreaming of a Mobile Christmas


Seasonal lights twinkling, children singing ... and the sound of the ringing of Christmas bells and cash registers. The festive period is coming fast. Here in the UK, we’re looking forward to a Happy Mobile Christmas.

Why? Because, after all the hype about mobile — and we’ve all seen it for years now — I truly believe this season will push forward the boundaries like never before in the mobile device arena, in terms of both adoption of devices and usage. 

Britain is heading for its first real mobile Christmas, as more gifts will be bought “on the go” on smartphones and tablets than on office and home computers.

This was the recent prediction of the UK high street giant and department store chain John Lewis, which says the proportion of online shopping using a mobile device had already risen sharply from 26% to more than 40% during 2013. And by the time Christmas has come and gone that should easily break through the 50% marker.

For the UK high street generally, approximately 25% of online sales were made on mobile and tablets last Christmas period, reaching a peak of 34% on Christmas Day itself. But last year’s figures will be dwarfed this year as more people get smart devices and generally feel more comfortable using them for payments and the like.

John Lewis’ 39 major stores (and its 300 Waitrose supermarkets) released strong first-half results this year (group sales up 7% to £4.7billion), and part of its success is due to its focus on digital/mobile adoption. The retailer rebuilt and relaunched its shopping app in the summer, which it says helped boost sales.

Does the John Lewis story suggests we should widen our view of the retail environment?

An obvious first step for many retailers has been to optimise their online presence for local search to reflect consumer usage. Some proactive retailers have developed simple but innovative solutions by offering a quick view of pricing on their mobile landing page to generate a map to the nearest store location.

Others have gone further by making sure visitors can opt in to receive mobile promotions while they are either in the store or in a nearby location.

The current “en vogue” step for many retailers is to geo-fence (i.e., to use a technology that can target consumers in the actual store and send offers and promotions to their smartphones when they are entering or nearing a specific area, even down to a particular aisle in a supermarket).

Add to that, amid this growing myriad of retail innovations, iBeacons: Apple’s new feature that uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) profiling for micro-location, enabling a series of new geo-fencing capabilities.

Rather than using satellite signals to locate a device (as GPS does), BLE can enable a mobile user to navigate and interact with specific regions that have been geo-fenced by low-cost signal emitters, which can be placed anywhere. The technology can also be used in such settings as an underground train station or an airport where GPS signals might not be available.

And what is driving this high level of interaction at point of sale? The answer rests in everyone’s dependency on mobile devices.

We check them every six-and-a-half minutes, recent Nokia research suggests. Looking at their phone is the first thing many people do each day, as they use its alarm function, and it’s also the last. In between, phones are used to check the Internet, read e-mails, make calls, and send texts.

In total, and perhaps incredibly, users check their smartphones an average of 150 times during a waking day of 16 hours. Consumers also are sending or receiving text messages, on average, 23 times a day and checking the clock 18 times per day.

Meanwhile, comScore’s “Mobile: Future in Focus” survey has found that 37% of total time spent online is via a mobile device, and Nielsen has indicated that 40% of social networking consumption throughout 2012 was via mobile.

Finally, the UK’s YouGov survey of mobile users shows more than 60% of smartphone and tablet owners access news on their devices.

Wherever you look, usage is snowballing fast now. The trick is getting the appropriate revenue levels attached to this usage.

Maybe the news media industry should start to look to the retail sector for clues as to how? Happy Mobile Christmas!

(For further reading, read about 5 Charts That Show How Mobile And Social Media Are Taking Over Commerce”).

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