The Christmas season sees retailers across the nation preparing themselves for the busy few weeks ahead. However, the face of retail is changing. While the internet has already caused a paradigm shift in how people shop, it is now the devices that they use which is redefining the future of retail.

The UK is one of the most mobile-centric countries on the planet; a fact that is backed up by countless statistics. There are more than 82 million mobile subscriptions in the United Kingdom, which represents a penetration rate of more than 130 per cent.

Back in 2012, over 40 million subscribers accessed the internet via their mobile device, an increase of nearly 9 million from the year before.

When it comes to retail, UK consumers have some of the highest rates of mobile purchasing of anywhere in the world. A survey by RetailMeNot.com revealed that Britons were the most likely of any western people to make a purchase using their mobile device. In fact, mobile commerce (mCommerce) accounted for the vast majority of growth in the online sales sector between 2012 and 2013. Mobile web adoption is growing 8 times faster than web adoption did in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The symbiotic relationship between mobile and web means that this explosion in mCommerce is only set to continue. Globally, 50 per cent of mobile subscribers use their mobile as their primary means of connecting to the web; a clear sign that mCommerce is ripe for explosion.

So what are retailers to make of all this?

Behind all this data is one inescapable fact that retailers cannot afford to ignore: mCommerce is big and only going to get bigger. Therefore any retailer wishing to maximise profits must have an mCommerce strategy in place.

Christmas is a vital sales period for many retailers and so the need to have a well-thought-out mobile strategy in place will be more important than ever. Research from IMRG and Capgemini, suggests that £4.6 billion is spent online in the run up to Christmas, with £920 million coming from mobile devices.

Mobile optimisation matters

The vast majority of retailers have some form of eCommerce site in place but it is now becoming increasingly important to have a mobile-optimised version of their site in place too. As the name suggests, a mobile-optimised site is designed with the mobile user in mind. It has stripped down functionality and allows the user to quickly navigate through the purchasing process.

As mobile becomes an ever more popular channel for retailers, the number of mobile-optimised sites available are also increasing. However, the key to success is not simply having a mobile site in place; but rather having a well-designed and thoroughly thought out mobile site that makes the shopping experience as intuitive as possible.

However, a great mCommerce strategy extends beyond simply providing an intuitive shopping cart experience. Data from Google suggests that 90 per cent of smartphone owners use their device for pre-shopping activities, while 84 per cent use their device in store as a research tool. This means that mobile sites should be able to do more than simply get the person through to the point of purchase. The site should be able to offer up all the information that a buyer needs to help them in their purchasing decision, whether that be through a ‘store location tool’, coupons or a review system.

Using mobile marketing to boost sales

The power of mobile extends much further than simply providing a purchasing platform. Retailers are growing increasingly mobile savvy, finding new and innovative ways to utilise mobile technologies. Messaging allows businesses to interact with their customers in order to gauge buying habits as well as other insight that be used to drive sales.

With SMS having the highest open rate of any digital channel, it provides the perfect platform for retailers to communicate with their customer base, delivering near-instant results.

The future of mCommerce for business is very bright

Is the age of mCommerce upon us? Not quite. There is still a long way to go before the mCommerce sector begins to compete with more traditional retail channels; but it is the quickest growing channel of all and will account for nearly £1 billion of sales in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

As all good retailers will know, a largely untapped market is no bad thing and it is the pioneers who invest heavily in mobile that will likely reap the most significant rewards.