For those with any lingering doubts that the future of commerce is not both digital and mobile, Mr Philip Clarke is keen to dispel them. Mr Clarke is the CEO of Tesco, and earlier this week vowed that his company would refocus “on putting customers right at the heart of everything we do”: as part of this refocusing exercise, Tesco will spend £150 million in the next financial year on its online business, including fully configuring its website “for mobile devices for the first time”.
For the first time. It is, some might say, rather late in the day for Tesco to be getting into this mobile lark, what with eBay already having racked up not far shy of $10 billion in mobile sales, but in all fairness Tesco has had mobile apps for some time (the company first released a transactional app for the iPhone back in August 2010): however, what it has recognized is that (a) a significant proportion of its shoppers are of the non-iPhone-owning variety and (b) there’s rather a lot of activity on the mobile browser these days. In short, if you opt only to, as it were, go native, you miss a large chunk of potential custom. Tesco is far from being alone when it comes to lack of optimisation for the mobile device. At the Mobile World Congress in February, Interpublic’s CEO Michael Roth said that just 40% of his agency’s clients had mobile-optimised websites, and just 14% allowed purchases via the mobile device. This despite companies falling over themselves to launch iPhone apps in the wake of the App Store launch nearly four years ago. Certainly, the focus for retailers has thus far overwhelmingly been through the native app rather than the browser, and some have done rather nicely from it: Tesco themselves are a case in point, but UK retailers Ocado and Argos have also reaped substantial benefits. But while Ocado and Argos both took their first strides into the m-commerce market via iOS and Android apps, they both subsequently launched optimised sites to cover all the bases. The key in all of this is to ensure synchronicity between mobile and desktop: to ensure that, having made out the order on a Tuesday evening, you can amend it the following afternoon when you’re halfway up a Welsh mountain having realized that you’ve forgotten to add the mayonnaise/Special K/milk/that nice Merlot that you got last time. Reception permitting, of course.