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Comment: Why the morning commute could become retailing prime time

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Over recent months the London Underground has undergone something of a transformation. As well as miles of track redevelopment and station upgrades in time for the London 2012 Olympics, Wifi has been added to sections of the Underground. As a nation of internet users, this means we can be connected for even more of the day. As many people have little to do on the Tube this is prime Web-browsing time. On a normal day, the Tube system carries 3.9 million people, and having a presence online is a great way for brands, retailers and advertisers to capture the attention of consumers on their way to work.

Virgin Media (which provides the London Underground Wifi) stated that one million tweets, Facebook posts, emails and web pages were sent via the service in a week, and the network attracted 100,000 users in the first four weeks after going live. This is only going to increase, as the current 40 Wifi-enabled Underground stations are set to become 120 by the end of 2012.

This is good news for those with a strong mobile offering, as consumers are connected and ready to use the mobile Web while underground. The morning commuting hours are actually prime time for mobile shopping too; Rakuten’s Play.com revealed that mobile browsing surges on Monday morning from 7 – 8 a.m. on the site. The pattern of browsing from bed or on the early morning commute is echoed throughout the week, with the highest levels of mobile browser activity occurring between 6 – 8 a.m. Data also shows that shoppers are most likely to click through on deals via their mobile during this early morning timeframe.

Despite the fact that a trip on the Tube may only take 15 minutes, consumers can still make that all-important decision to make a purchase on their morning commute. Browser dwell times on Rakuten’s Play.com indicate that fashion and literature are Brits’ online impulse purchase items of choice, with the average user spending just over 40 seconds on the site before purchasing clothes, and under a minute before buying a book. Even at the longer end of the scale, considered purchases such as TVs only have a dwell time on the site of around two minutes.

Mobile commerce has huge growth potential in the UK; browsing figures are already strong, but what remains key is conversion. British consumers appear to be ahead or the curve here, with many happy to make purchases on a mobile device. The IAB recently reported that 59 per cent of UK adults own a smartphone, and UK consumers were found to be far more open to making purchases via their mobile phones than their European counterparts. 1. The nature of ‘prime time’ for marketing and advertising has changed due to the Internet; the mobile Web and apps are now part of the consumer buying journey and having connectivity at more points in the days can only be a positive step for retailers looking to profit from m-commerce.

The amount of people with the capability (via mobile devices) to browse the Web when on the go, coupled with the sheer numbers of people sitting idle on the Tube every day to and from work should encourage the growing m-commerce industry. To reach consumers at prime online browsing and buying time, brands and retailers should continue developing their mobile offering and ensure consumers are aware of the best way to shop on their mobile device, whether that’s having a dedicated app or a mobile optimised site, ready for the millions of people that use the Tube every day looking to while away a few minutes by indulging in some retail therapy

  1. IAB Europe’s Mediascope Europe report – July 2012
Published on Friday 10 August by Editorial Assistant

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