We can’t turn back time: Telstra on why mobile retail is here to stay

The omnichannel shopper is now well established in Australia with the latest research from Telstra showing the country is one of the most mobile-centric countries in the world, with smartphone penetration at 70 per cent and tablet adoption at 44 per cent, up from 30 per cent in 2012.

The Telstra whitepaper How Mobility is Changing the Rhythm of Australian Retail also shows that people are using these devices as the entry point to their path to purchase, with 79 per cent using their devices to browse products on websites or apps.

According to Telstra retail industry executive Gareth Jude, these statistics make Australia the only other non-Asian country next to Sweden with an “exploding adoption rate” of mobile devices usage, which retailers need to embrace.

“There’s no point wanting to turn the clock back to 1972; it’s gone and it’s not coming back. This is the new world and it offers great opportunities,” he said.

“The opportunities really offer the chance to engage with your customers a bit more and more deeply. If you’re a retailer and you can get your customer to pull their phone out of their pocket while they’re in your store, and then connect it to your online asset, then you have deepened that relationship with that customer straight away.

“It’s because you can give them a richer shopping experience and the transaction being with you rather than with somebody else,” he added. “As the research shows, if you can’t offer that information, product, price in your store they know where they can get it. It’s in Google in their pockets.”

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Another finding was that a large proportion of shoppers in store are using their mobile devices to shop – whether retailers offer mobile facilities or not.

“They’re using them to check competitor prices (22 per cent), check product reviews (18 per cent), price match (17 per cent) and stock availability (17 per cent), which are all things that are very close to the point of purchase,” Jude said.

“Customers trust these devices to advise them when they’re in the store.  This is emphasised by the fact that 51 per cent of Australians are saying the use of a mobile phone in a retail store has changed their purchase position in the last 12 months, which we find quite amazing.”

However, despite consumers’ eagerness to connect with retailers on a more mobile and richer level, the research found there was still a large gap between what consumers wanted and what retailers are delivering. For example, 68 per cent of Australians are keen for free Wi-Fi hotpots in store but of those 300 retailers that were surveyed only 27 per cent are providing that facility.

Another example is that 62 per cent of consumers said they are willing to pay direct from their mobile phone, but only 7 per cent of Australians have been able to do so mainly because it’s not being offered widely.

However, retailers did indicate they have plans to invest in the area of mobile technology in the next 12 months.

“Consumer markets always run faster than enterprise markets and this particular thing is running very fast,” Jude said.

“But retailers do generally get it. I’d say most retailers are on some kind of omnichannel journey because they get that customers need a blended experience. Retailers do also recognise the mobile is becoming much more important, it’s just really about gearing an enterprise up to catch up with the consumer. I don’t think it’s not through a lack of will or denial.”

CEO of the National Online Retailers Association Paul Greenberg agreed saying retailers need to act on using mobility to enhance the in-store experience for consumers.

“I’m such a powerful believer of growth for all these so-called channels. I think this is an important step on new retail in growing the Australian retail pie,” he said.

“Mobile devices — whether it’s a smartphone or tablet — are great cash registers and they’re a critical part to the path of purchase even if the transaction isn’t completely on the device, it’s certainly the footprint towards the end of a sale.”

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