The FT has published the latest edition of its brilliant The Connected Business report – which focuses on opportunities in post-plastic mobile shopping, wearable tech and big data.  Here’s a speed summary of the key points for brands and retailers…

Stores caught by surprise as shoppers take their tablets (Duncan Robinson)

  • Retailers need to act fast – and get their apps right – to benefit from a multichannel world.
  • Shopping by mobile jumped 140% (IMRG) in run up to Christmas.
  • Shop Direct (Littlewoods, Very.co.uk) says that from next year all its transactions will involve a mobile device – with customers either researching an item or making the entire purchase on the device.
  • In the UK, sales via tab- lets will quadruple over the next four years, reaching £17.9bn in 2017
  • Mobile users overtook those using PCs in China in 2012 – and that gap is growing.
  • Slow loading apps and clunky interface kill sales
  • The future of e-commerce sales – from home – is the tablet (smartphone in store) – tablets account for four-fifths of UK mobile sales (although mobile devices only account for 1/4 of e-commerce sales (but doubling every year).
  • The mobile wallet is the missing link holding back further growth.
  • The future is not either/or for device formats – it’s the combined seamless experience
  • Consumers increasingly want to, and expect to be able to, use their mobile when out shopping, and not just to purchase from competitors
  • The future of ecommerce could be in store. Shoppers are not only comparing price, but reading reviews and comparing warranties
  • The lines between offline and online are blurring

Commerce goes post-plastic

  • Rapid (m-commerce) growth fuels rash of competing solutions (Daniel Thomas)
  • Technology and telecoms groups are teaming up with banks to enable customers to pay for goods with their smartphones.
  • Retailers are adapting to the blurring of online and high street as shoppers use their phones to find and puchase goods.
  • But this has led to a highly fragmented market – and an experiential mess for users. The new priority is integration.
  • A few success stories standout – the rollout of contactless payment pads, Vodafone’s M-Pesa mobile payments in Africa, and Square in the US (and iZettle)
  • Groups such as Google, Amazon and PayPal already offer payment schemes online, and are now making a push into the real world with services such as Google’s Walle. Apple is predicted to join the fray. Facebook is a disaster and needs to get its act together
  • Ultimately operators, banks or brands need to make mobile payments easier or safer, or offer incentives such as loyalty rewards, to persuade consumers to change their habits.

Content is different in a mobile world (Henry Mance)

  • The news industry is teaching us about the different content demands of (mobile) digital audiences who increasingly use mobile devices. January was the first month when at least half the BBC website’s unique visitors came from tablets and mobile device.
  • For example, headlines and titles that work offline don’t work online. People don’t have time for puns (e.g. The tabloid Sun loves punning headlines such as Mad Müller – when an Islamic extremist went shopping for yoghurt – and Celebrity Big Blubber – when a whale washed up on the banks of the Thames. These puns work in the traditional press but not on screen. Readers on smartphones do not have time for puns: they want to know what a story is about instantly. Puns are write out when users switch to apps (Henry Mance).
  • Mobile news readers also want live news, so for the Sun’s mobile app, stories are ranked by time since publication, rather than by importance, so visitors to the app are constantly confronted by new information. Success is measured by how often readers return throughout the day.
  • Mobile news readers also want fast snappy news – so the Sun also tries to deliver bite-sized content, including videos that are just 20-seconds long. When everyone sets out to make a news video, they think three minutes, but, if you’re standing in a queue, you’re going to be at the front of the queue in 30 seconds.
  • Last month, Facebook launched Paper, an app that packages stories from news outlets with social media posts. How each story is told is as important as the story itself
  • Finally, when on a mobile, the lines between traditional channels – e.g. newspapers or TV are blurred, news providers must adapt content to compete with a broader competitive set.
  • For advertisers that support content, the game is different too – The Holy Grail for advertisers is location. If advertisers can know when a consumer is near a shop or restaurant, they can send an offer relating to that outlet.
  • A new generation of wearable tech and other connected devices may change this again – CNN launched an app for Samsung’s Galaxy Gear Smartwatch in January, which displays up to 10 headlines and links via Bluetooth to a mobile phone.
  • Even within the mobile ecosystem there are differences – Apple owners are more willing to pay for content than Android users, so the Guardian newspaper charges for its iPhone app, but not for its Android equivalent.
  • Adapting content is more than responsive design, it is about optimising the content itself.
  • Somethings stay the same – the big challenge is to recruit audiences – it’s difficult to get audiences to download apps, but when they do it is successful; news app users made up just one in 10 unique browsers to the BBC News mobile site in January, but accounted for nearly 40 per cent of the content viewed.

Business warms to wearables but fresh ideas are needed (Jane Bird)

  • Accenture forecasts the wearable technology market, currently worth $1bn-$3bn a year, will rise to $18bn by 2018
  • Currently, the market is in its infancy – enhancing existing early entrants such as wristbands (Fitbit and Nike) and watches (Samsung Galaxy Gear)
  • But just as mobile phones have changed out of all recognition (smartphones are used more for checking weather reports, train time- tables and maps than for voice conversations) so too will wearable tech – the potential lies in using data about where people are and what they are doing, and keeping them digitally connected via the internet
  • There are big road blocks for wearable technology to take off:
    • Wireless networks need to be faster and more reliable,
    • Batteries also need to improve. At present they are heavy, get hot and do not last long enough.
    • Aesthetics (as well as comfort, safety, and hygiene) need to improve – Google Glass users merit their Glasshole nickname
    • Privacy issues need to be resolved
  • But there is also a problem of identifying a real need for wearable tech. Companies will need to come up with fresh ideas.
    • The Mimo baby onesie from Boston-based Rest Devices, which has washable interwoven sensors that monitor a baby’s breathing, skin temperature, body position and activity level.
    • Intel has developed fitness earbuds that as well as playing music tracks heart rate and pulse. They can select tunes from your playlist that encourage running faster or slower.
    • Google of course, is inviting consumers in the US to experiment with its $1,500 Glass headset, which incorporates a tiny camera, microphone, display and internet access.
  • Big business opportunity for wearable tech will be in business – with tech that offers efficiency and effectiveness gains
    • Motorola Solutions has developed a jacket that incorporates sensors to provide “situational awareness”, for use by security staff and the police.
    • Motorola Solutions also produce a wearable computer for use in warehouses and distribution centres that helps companies streamline operations, reducing inventory and “shrinkage” in the supply chain – It responds to voice commands, leaving the user’s hands free, and has a barcode scanner worn as a ring that identifies items as they are being handled
    • Accenture and Philips, meanwhile, have collaborated on a Google Glass headset that lets surgeons monitor vital signs without having to turn away

Stores mine rich seam of data on shoppers (Andrea Felsted)

  • Ever since Tesco, the UK supermarket group, developed its Clubcard customer loyalty scheme in the mid-1990s, retailers have amassed huge amounts of data about shoppers – where they shopped, what was in their basket and how much they spent.
  • This data provides insights into shopping habits and allows retailers to drive impulse-purchase through targeted promotions, such as money-off coupons, at customers who actually want them.
  • Shopper data also allows retailers to predict demand to manage inventory – Amazon is taking this one step further, by planning to send packages to shoppers before they have ordered them. It will use predictive demand analytics and has filed a patent for the system in the US. The online retailer will use its customer database to predict which geographial areas it thinks will order certain products. It will send them to a local warehouse before the orders are received. During transit it expects to receive a specific address.
  • Another opportunity for retailers is to use profile, time, location, search and browsing history for dynamic pricing – offering different prices and offers to customers depending on who they are and their behaviour up to the point and moment of sale.
  • As shopper data gets ever more detailed, data security becomes ever more important – as the data is valuable to criminals. The Target theft of creditcard data from up to 40m of their customers in December was one of the biggest breaches of data security in the retail sector since 2007 (when discount company TJX (TJ Maxx/TK Maxx in the UK fell victim to criminals). Notably this was a ‘point of sale attack’ on for bricks and mortar stores – traditional retail is as much at risk as e-commerce players.