They are the first thing consumers look at in the morning and the last thing they see at night. The love -affair between consumers and smartphones knows no bounds, yet brands have been slow to capitalise on this relationship.
Marketers could be forgiven for believing that it has been the year of mobile since the dawn of time. eMarketer predicts a 90% rise in mobile adspend during 2014, with mobile becoming the second-biggest media channel in the UK by 2016, with a spend of £4.23bn.
However, the heady cocktail of increasing smartphone penetration, combined with growth in consumer attention and media spend, has not delivered many tangible benefits to marketers. Ultimately, -despite all the hype, the growth in mobile advertising has not been matched by a similar increase in creative marketing activity on the small screen. In advertising, context is everything, and agencies have, to date, struggled to unpick consumers’ complex relationship with their phones.
This is particularly acute in the retail space, where the hype surrounding mobile shopping has often failed to deliver sustainable returns.
"The promise of technology has not stacked up to the experience," explains Rob Sellers, director of Grey Shopper London, who says that the construction of most supermarkets as steel-and-concrete boxes full of water, means that connectivity is often an issue. "There is a real grey area when it comes to using smartphones in the retail environment, and brands really need to ask themselves whether they are doing something because it’s cool, or investing in a strategy that will have a significant impact across the business."
Technologies such as iBeacons and digital mirrors have provided a notable splash of PR. However, in the rush to be first, are brands missing the chance to harness smartphones’ power to deliver the ever-elusive but much-hyped "single-customer view"?
Jason Nathan, global multichannel capability -director at Dunnhumby, argues that many brands have succumbed to panic. "There is a great deal of urgency among retailers, who are seeing their online growth plateau and new players steal their market share. The ubiquity and speed of smartphones has created something of an arms race among brands."
Experts warn, though, of the danger of being -seduced by simplistic propositions as opposed to enacting the fundamental business changes needed to truly tap into the smart-shopping phenomenon. "We need to get away from talking about mcommerce and ecommerce, and embrace a more fluid form of shopping," says Mark Holden, head of -futures at Arena Media.
"Fewer consumers are shopping in stores, so we need to think more carefully about how we connect with them. We need to get the technology in place to better understand the consumer across channels."
Simon Hathaway, head of retail experience at Cheil, points out that the next stage of media and retail is being driven by the consumer, and powered by mobile. "Marketers need to think about three budgets: time, money and frustration," he adds.
To move beyond the hype, here are the six key ways marketers can embrace the opportunity -afforded by smart shopping.