Impact: Mobile in retail for 2016


By Hooman Mazaheri, service provider outreach director, GSMA

Looking back, it’s clear that 2015 was a game changing year for retail technology advances. The drive was spearheaded by significant mobile-driven changes by new mobile payment disruptors in the likes of Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, and the introduction of wearable payments such as mPay from Barclays.

This, coupled with a huge rise in mobile apps delivering targeted deals, coupons, loyalty schemes, and ‘one click’ purchases have hammered home the impact mobile technology is having on the retail industry. Consumers’ mobiles have become central to the consumer shopping experience, and retailers and technology companies alike have capitalised on this exciting new retail landscape by introducing novel new ways to buy.

Here, I have considered some of the exciting new trends that will come crashing onto the scene in 2016.

On-the-go sales and mobile marketing

Mobile payments were one of the key trends in 2015 that made the jump from concept to reality, with Apple Pay launching with a bang in July. Despite initial slow adoption, the number of consumers embracing mobile payment methods is on the rise, with mobile payments likely increasing as retailers invest in the technology needed to facilitate the transactions.

However, mobile to mobile Fintech companies are seeing a huge surge in usage, Paym for example, which reported an 89% increase in use in the second half of 2015. We expect to see popularity for such payment methods continue to rise over the course of 2016, especially as Fintech companies continue to storm the market with innovative new payment methods.

Non-traditional in-app purchases are also increasing. Pinterest recently made a notable move into the retail space, embedding ‘Buy It’ buttons on their platform earlier this year. It’s another example of how consumers are increasingly using their mobiles as part of their overall shopping experience.

However, integrating their retail strategy with social media is challenging, as targeted offers are often seen as invasive and unwelcome. Retailers who want to avoid this should ensure they’re respectful of their customers’ privacy, and are transparent with their customers about the information they’re sharing by obtaining the customer’s explicit consent.

Rise of the wearable

A rise in consumer wearable devices hitting the market and some high profile launches really made 2015 the year of the wearable. After its launch in April, the Apple Watch quickly became the best-selling wearable device, with almost seven million smartwatches shipped in the first two quarters.

Meanwhile, more fitness wearables hit the market as consumers embraced the concept of improving their health and fitness with powerful insights about their personal data. The wearable will likely evolve over the coming years, and we could see near field communication (NFC)-enabled activity trackers which could allow us to ‘tap and pay’ with our wrists, as well as track our heart rate.

In addition to payment functionality, a wearable may one day become the single device that identifies you together with your phone, with the phone acting as a communication hub. This type of adoption is dependent on penetration of wearables and how the interface and sensors improve in design along the way. It will be more critical than ever that this technology is robust enough for authentication and to ensure that the channel between the phone and wearable is secure.

The omni-channel experience

As the traditional role of the bricks and mortar store evolves, new methods of using mobile devices to draw customers through the doors are beginning to be an increasingly common sight on the high street. These include Wi-Fi or NFC-enabled retail beacons, driving footfall and sales through timely, relevant offers.

Looking ahead, disruptive technologies such as drones could dramatically reduce delivery times, making home shopping more convenient still. By optimising every single point of the supply chain, retailers can pass on efficiency gains to the consumer, encouraging them to buy more.

Protecting customers’ digital identity 

As consumers become more concerned over personal data and privacy, retailers must have a robust strategy for protecting customer data and each shopper’s digital identity. However, the challenge they face is ensuring this level of protection, but not at the cost of convenience.

Complex, cumbersome transaction processes or too many extraneous security steps turn buyers away and fuel the dreaded shopping cart abandonment, which continues to plague the e-commerce industry. Retailers are combating this through adopting more multi-factor mobile authentication, which act as a simple, fast and secure sign-up mechanism to new customers, allowing them to verify their identity without compromising privacy.


In an increasingly competitive market, mobile will shift from being a ‘consideration’ to a ‘must have’ for retailers and will be key for survival from 2016. Combined with consumer insights, this channel can be used to improve the entire retail experience, from offline and online sales, loyalty, geo-localised offers and even security.

Successful and agile retailers who will win in this mobile era will adopt industry standards for digital identity to protect their customers’ data and will gain a real competitive edge in the evolving world of retail.

The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and Internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors.


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