Comment: Welcome to the ‘post-PC era’

Comment: Welcome to the ‘post-PC era’
Chris Webster, VP head of Retail and Consumer Products, Capgemini UK

By Chris Webster, VP head of Retail and Consumer Products, Capgemini UK 10:20AM - Mon 21st October 2013

M-commerce has continued to grow, not least through the mass adoption of smartphones and tablet devices. Nearly one-third of web-based page views in the UK are now viewed on smartphones and tablets. In fact, findings by IMRG and Capgemini conclude that a ‘tipping point’ has been reached in online retail as growth of the ‘digital consumer’ has resulted in all e-retail growth coming from sales via mobile devices. Since Q1 2011, figures show that annual total online retail sales has averaged around 15 per cent growth, but when mobile numbers are excluded, online retail sales have actually declined, flat-lining in Q2 2013. In Q2 2013, nearly a quarter (23%) of all online retail sales were from mobile devices.

Developments in technology, with its focus on speed and processing power in ever slimmer devices, have left the humble PC feeling somewhat inadequate. In 2007, Steve Jobs, sitting at a conference with Microsoft’s Bill Gates, first raised the idea of a ‘post-PC era’ – a time when the traditional PC would see a decline in sales in favour of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers. He accelerated this trend when Apple launched the iPad three years ago. Since then, growing popularity of mobile devices has contributed to that decline.

There is no doubt that the introduction of smartphones and tablets have had a significant impact on the PC market, which has witnessed a steady decline in sales as consumers worldwide turn to mobile devices. It’s common knowledge that in many developing markets, PCs didn’t even hit the ground in lieu of more accessible and affordable mobile technology.

The ability to connect ‘anytime, anywhere’ is continuing to power the market for 2.35bn mobile devices that are estimated to be shipped this year. The estimates come from a new Gartner report which reveals that shipments of traditional PCs will continue to fall, down 10 per cent this year, while tablets will rise by nearly 68 per cent. This is supported by a recent report by IDC which suggests that this year more tablets will be shipped than laptops. By 2015, IDC predicts that orders for tablets will outpace the PC market as a whole.

This marks a significant change in consumer attitudes towards computing devices and their associated applications. However, some claim the PC market will remain an important business tool for years to come. Bob O’Donnell, IDC’s program vice president of clients and displays, said the industry is entering a ‘PC-plus’ era, where mobile devices are being used alongside PCs. Consumers may use a PC whilst at their desk at work, then switch to a tablet to research or work when travelling to a client meeting.

Demand of tablets over PCs will boost the e-retail market, as mobile devices open up online shopping. As a result, IMRG and Capgemini have reforecast their initial growth projection of the online retail market in 2013 from 12 per cent to 15 per cent, and September’s figures are in line with this, with Q3 2013 retail sales sitting on 15 per cent.

During a recent roundtable discussion, IMRG and Capgemini presented their findings to a host of leading UK retailers and discussed possible contributing factors to the emerging trend for mobile commerce. Those include:

Accessibility: with increasingly affordable contracts and devices, consumers from a range of demographics now have access to smartphone technology over laptops.

Convenience: fast and easy to shop online – one click of the button and shoppers are online and browsing. The ease of using a tablet device means that shoppers are ‘second screening’ - casually browsing ad shopping online whilst engaged in other activity, such as watching television. Typically, visits via a tablet result in a higher number of pages per visit due to the leisurely nature of the interaction.

Confidence: shoppers are becoming increasingly confident in m-retail, particularly as retailers improve their mobile sites and user experience to make shopping on devices an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

For marketers and online retailers, the tablet user represents an interesting opportunity. This is a target market that generally has more disposable income, and often has different usage patterns to mobile or desktop consumers, with time on their side to peruse and enjoy rich content. As a result, we’ve seen retailers rush to optimise sites and create tablet specific apps and content to make sure they can take advantage of this growing market.

The post-PC era has brought a focus on mobility and portability, with consumers increasingly demanding that their technology can easily be used on the go, vital to support busy lifestyles. However, we are still only scratching the surface of the ways we will use mobile devices to interact with digital services in our daily lives, and whilst some brands are starting to get it right, there are plenty of retailers that are lagging behind their competitors when it comes to an enjoyable mobile shopping experience.

Mobile shopping is now a must-have for retailers, with consumers now expecting an optimised experience, just as they expect a decent online shopping website accessible from their laptop or PC. Brands need to ensure they have a digital platform in place which offers solutions to engage shoppers who consume media on different devices at different points of the day.

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