According to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, the proportion of online sales made through mobile devices doubled in the three months to the end of July.

According to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, the proportion of online sales made through mobile devices doubled in the three months to the end of July. The proportion of online retail site visits made through mobile devices also surged, from 21.1 per cent in the second quarter last year to 34 per cent in the same quarter this year.

Although these figures are impressive, they’re not exactly shocking. We’ve all been inundated with statistics like these for ages now, and most people are well aware that the popularity of mobile devices is continuing to rise. It’s only those retailers who have failed to embrace the mobile revolution that may be surprised - and alarmed - to see that this market is now growing at such an incredible pace that technology we sit and admire now, will be tomorrow’s commodity.

Smartphones and tablets have obviously made it possible for a whole new generation of consumers to buy exactly what they want, when they want it - but that’s only half the story. We’re also seeing a lot more innovation in this space, from retailers who are spending a lot of time and money on enhancing their mobile offering to clever developers who are creating apps that make shopping on the go easier and more attractive than ever.

A mobile app called Snap Fashion is a good example. This ingenious app lets shoppers snap a photo of any item of clothing they like - whether it’s in a magazine, online, or actually being worn by somebody - and then performs a visual search of more than 100 retailers to recommend similar items based on the item’s particular cut, colour, style and price.

At this stage, a number of possible matches are presented, and a single tap will take the purchaser to the retailer’s website to complete the purchase. Snap Fashion has some other tricks up its sleeve too, including the ability to share choices and purchases with friends and also to create tailor-made personal wishlists and public, sharable, gift lists.

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that easy-to-use, consumer-friendly tools like these are re-defining modern day retailing. Retailers like John Lewis and Debenhams are already using innovative solutions to link their real-world and virtual offerings more closely, and consumers can expect to see a number of productivity-boosting innovations like electronic shelf labelling and using iPads to replace tills to gain in popularity over the next couple of years.

At the moment, retail spending online is expected to account for 12 per cent of total retail this year (£35.3 billion), but by 2017 this is expected to rise to 15 per cent, as new devices, clever apps and enhanced delivery options continue to make online shopping even more attractive for today’s savvy shoppers.

Consumers are clearly the driving force behind all of these changes, since they are now demanding more choice, interactivity, product information and price transparency than ever before. As such, an investment in emerging technologies, combined with a renewed focus on creativity and innovation, will not only help retailers to meet these demands more effectively, but will also make it possible to engage with customers in ways that were simply not possible before.

  • Dan Coen, director, Zolfo Cooper