By Daniel Hunter

Seventy-two per cent of UK consumers now have a smartphone device, compared to only 58% 10 months ago, according to new research from Deloitte.

The rapidly rising importance of mobile to retailers comes as a result of the smartphone emerging as the shopper’s favourite sales assistant. 57% of UK consumers have used a smartphone to check product availability and 50% to buy goods.

The love affair with the device is particularly prevalent amongst Generation Y, with nearly 90% of consumers aged 25-34 now have a smartphone. This group is often considered the most affluent and influential and therefore, retailers must align their channels to meet the demands of these technology-savvy shoppers.

“The exponential rise in UK consumer’s reliance on smartphones means mobile must become a priority for retailers," Ian Geddes, head of UK retail at Deloitte, said.

"Customer experience, brand loyalty and ultimately sales will all increasingly stem from the mobile channel. This is the year that mobile moves from a project run by the IT department to a strategic priority in the boardroom.”

Deloitte’s research highlights the growing prevalence of apps in supporting mobile payments and customer experience. However, there is a generational gap when it comes to consumer engagement. Generation Z (aged 16-24) are the strongest advocates with 48% choosing to shop via Apps, compared to only 14% of those aged 45-64.

Apps can deliver both personalised and location-based content. However, Deloitte’s Consumer Review found that only 21% of UK consumers are currently happy to receive tailored communications. Despite perceived security and privacy risks, 40% welcome search results that are relevant to their location.

“Personalisation can really build brand loyalty but retailers must carefully consider their approach. Push marketing can be seen as intrusive and consumers can sometimes feel bombarded. Retailers must find the balance. However, those who do will reap the benefits of a loyal customer," Geddes continued.

Despite still being in its infancy, mobile payment is rapidly becoming more popular with UK consumers. It is perceived to be convenient and another reason for them to use their smartphone. Nearly one third (31%) has used an online wallet and 12% contactless technology to pay for their goods. As consumers are becoming more familiar with mobile payment technology, so their confidence in it increases.

Ben Perkins, head of consumer business research at Deloitte, said: “There is no doubt that mobile is rapidly redefining the way consumers and brands interact even more than the Internet did. Consumers are expecting convenience, simplicity and security in exchange for their loyalty. It is only by embracing mobile’s full potential with the right strategy that a consumer facing business can compete in a mobile-centric world.”

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