Last week Tesco revealed that it is to launch its own smartphone this year.

Last week Tesco revealed that it is to launch its own smartphone this year.

The retailer’s chief executive, Philip Clarke, said that the phone would be aggressively priced and likely to undercut other smartphone providers by as much as £200.

This is a smart move by the supermarket to tap into a growing trend of mobile shopping. Indeed, recent research by TNS, commissioned by Google, revealed that just under a third of shoppers (32%) make a purchase on their smartphones at least once a month.

This latest development follows Tesco’s decision to launch its own tablet – the Hudl – last year.

Tesco had great success with its budget tablet which sold 400,000 units in its first three months and subsequently sold a total of 550,000. The own-brand smartphone is likely to adopt a similar style to the Hudl – complete with pre-loaded Tesco shopping apps – and Philip Clarke will no doubt be hoping it delivers similar success.

Tesco isn’t the only retailer targeting consumers with own-brand devices. Amazon is also thought to be launching a smartphone following the success of its Kindle Fire tablet.

Both Amazon and Tesco are showing the direction of travel for many retailers at the moment. It is becoming increasingly important for retailers to focus on customer engagement opportunities which can boost brand loyalty and ultimately have a positive impact on the bottom line.

There is also a big opportunity here for retailers such as Tesco and Amazon to utilise their own-brand technology products to gather even more data on their customers and their behavior.

This will equip them with more insight about how their customers like to shop and what for. In addition, retailers could in theory test marketing initiatives with its smartphone customer base to help drive future campaigns.

Technology is clearly becoming a key battleground for traditional retailers. There is now great value in building close customer relationship through the use of own brand products.

For instance, providing consumers with a smartphone or a tablet that is pre-loaded with Tesco apps, makes it very easy for them to go directly to Tesco when they need to shop, ultimately providing a comprehensive service.

Just as the giant supermarkets are looking to provide consumers with everything from restaurants and exercise to childcare and entertainment in one place, retailers are now looking to provide the same kind of convenience for digital channels and devices.

After all, e-commerce is no longer just about providing a channel for online shopping: it is about controlling a multi-faceted media platform that can provide consumers with everything they need to run their lives, effortlessly and seamlessly. Tesco is well on its way to achieving this goal.

  • Dan Coen, director, Zolfo Cooper