Retail Reflections: E-commerce and what shoppers want

Alan Monahan writes: As bricks-and-mortar retailers seek to turn their physical stores into an asset instead of a liability to compete against online retailers, they will need to make sure they are heeding the demands of today’s increasingly mobile phone dependent consumers, according to eMarketer.

It reports that while studies have showed in-store shopping remains important to a majority of consumers, an International Council of Shopping Centres survey showed that more than three-fifths of people expect that by 2020 they will actually prefer to be left alone to do their own things while in stores instead of engaging with a sales person. The only caveat: stores have to provide easy access to products and sizes availably there.

eMarketer reports that the survey of more than 1,000 consumers in February conducted by Opinion Research Corp for ICSC also found that more than half of them said they prefer to see virtually how home furnishings and accessories fit in a home before they make a purchase.

And separately, more than half commented that they want to compile a shopping list on a store app and receive a floor map to locate products.

Ecommerce is ubiquitous in the UK and eMarketer estimates that almost nine in 10 of the country’s internet users and nearly 80% of the population will make a digital purchase in 2017 – the highest rates in Western Europe. And that activity is increasingly happening via mobile devices.

In fact, our mobile buying is set to break records this year: the Centre for Retail Research is predicting purchases worth £27.02 billion will be made on mobile devices, up 26% from 2016.

Meanwhile, I congratulate the British Retail Consortium for introducing a cyber security toolkit that will provide retail businesses of all sizes with a practical step-by-step guide to prevent and manage cyber security threats and protect the customers they serve.

With online sales growing annually by around 10 to 15%  in recent years, the same period has seen the parallel rise of ever more elaborate forms of cyber-related crimes such as ‘doxing’, ‘whaling’ and ‘spoofing’ against both retail businesses and online shoppers.

The toolkit’s recommendations include retail-specific information-sharing; completing a cyber security risk assessment, and creating an incident response plan. It also provides a guide to preparing, responding, recovering and reviewing attacks.

Home Office minister Sarah Newton, who helped launch the toolkit, commented: “We are already taking world-leading action to stamp out cyber-crime and fraud, including investing £1.9 billion in cyber security over five years. But as we have said, the Government cannot do this alone.

“Businesses have a responsibility to take steps to protect themselves and their customers, which is why we are delighted that the BRC has introduced their Cyber Security to do so.”

The toolkit is available to download at

Thank goodness Philip Hammond has scrapped plans to increase National Insurance contributions by millions of self-employed workers. And in a letter to Tory MPs the Chancellor also gave an undertaking not to raise NIC rates this Parliament. So, the Conservatives will now keep their manifesto pledge and common sense has prevailed. But this kerfuffle could so easily have been avoided.