By Michael Moore
The U.K. high street is set to experience a major surge in the amount of money spent using mobile and tablet devices over the next few years, according to Barclays.
New figures from the bank estimates that consumers will spend £53.6 billion a year using their smartphones and tablets by 2024, compared with the £9.7bn spent today.
Barclays predicts that by 2024, nearly half (42 percent) of all retail sales will involve a mobile device in some way or another, making mobile the fastest growing retail segment.
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"Online retail was once seen as a threat to bricks and mortar stores. However, retailers are starting to discover that mobile technology doesn't just enable them to compete in the same space as pure-play competitors but also provides an opportunity to increase sales through stores," said Richard Lowe, managing director and head of retail and wholesale at Barclays.
This growth comes alongside increasing targeting of consumers by increasingly detailed marketing methods, which use customer data and past buying trends to target prospective high-street customers with offers and vouchers sent directly to their devices.
The challenge now, Barclays says, is for retailers to adapt to changing consumer desires to make their shops more technology-friendly.
This includes adding services such as free WiFi, which was named by 57 percent of consumers as a central part of the retail experience, with a further 42 percent saying they were always on the lookout for free WiFi hotspots when out and about.
However, only 14 percent of retailers offer in-store WiFi, Barclays found, with just 7 percent more planning to invest in it in the future.
Alongside this, less than 3 percent of retailers believe their business is at the cutting-edge when it comes to being mobile-ready, with a further 70 percent not currently offering a mobile Website or app.
Retailers claim their reluctance to invest is because they feel that rather than generating new sales, mobile has simply shifted sales around. They are also concerned that mobile adds substantially to the cost of doing business online.
"Getting consumers into stores is challenging enough, but once they are there it is important that retailers can offer the technology driven services that consumers now demand," Lowe adds. "WiFi is a basic commodity but its very presence and the services retailers can deliver through it clearly has an important part to play in high-street sales."