In some parts of the rural UK traditional mobile shops still exist – a van or lorry ladened up with a whole range of produce and items for those to whom a trip to the corner shop could be many miles away. Yet, the modern mobile shop is very different. In fact it is the shopper, not the shop that is mobile!

New research out this week from ForeSee shows that consumers in the United Kingdom are using mobile phones more than ever for retail purposes. With similar trends shown in the US it looks as though the improvements in mobile technology really are having an effect on how consumers interact with retailers across the world.

The study of nearly 10,000 visitors examined the patterns to the biggest e-retail websites in the U.K. (determined by traffic, according to IMRG). The results show quite a dramatic impact of smartphone technology on mobile retailing. Nearly a third (32%) of respondents said they have used their phone to access a retailer website with a similar number saying they expected to do so in the future. Meaning retailers not yet providing mobile-accessible sites will be at a distinct disadvantage soon, if not already.

Of those surveyed, 8% of web shoppers reported having made a purchase from their phones this Christmas season – a four-fold increase on last year’s figures. In the US the figure was 11% but it seems the UK is fast catching up.

It is not just direct purchases that consumers use their mobiles for either. 47% of those responding admitted they had used their phone to compare price information on various goods, over a third (34%) has used their phone to compare different products, 20% had used their mobile to have a look at a products specifications and 15% had used their hone to check product reviews.

Even for retailers attracting customers in-store the lack of a mobile internet presence could be disastrous. Over two-thirds (67%) admitted they had looked at a retailers site while in their physical store and 26% had even checked out competitor retailer websites while in store.

There is also weight added to the old adage that first impress count and that has an impact cross-channel as consumers now appear to merge impressions or virual shops with physical shops under one brand. A shopper enjoying a happy mobile experience is 32% more likely to buy from that retailer online and 31% more likely to buy offline, as well as being far more likely to return to the main website, recommend it, and be loyal to the brand, the report found.

The need for an online retail presence then appears to be vital for long-term brand success, but with mobile technology improving and penetration increasing an online shop might not be enough if it is not mobile-ready.

Have you bought via your phone? Should designers be building retail sites with mobile access at the forefront of the design?

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