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| Editor's Blog Section | Home shopping: don't let headline statistics mislead you
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17 July 2014

Home shopping: don't let headline statistics mislead you

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From Opinion column issue 68 – Summer 2014

More than ten per cent of online retailers are now believed to be doing half their business through mobile consumer devices; and click and collect, already popular, is predicted to see a further big surge in the coming years.

Such factoids make nice headline statistics, and are usually provided in good faith by responsible researchers; but they can easily get hijacked by people with their own agendas. For instance, what proportion of mobile purchases are made on smartphones, and what proportion on tablet computers? They’re not the same thing at all.

If you’re buying online with a phone, you’re quite likely to be doing it in a public place, and relying on your phone provider’s 3G data network to provide internet access – which introduces a range of connectivity and security issues.

It also raises the question of how you’re interacting with the retailer. Is it via an app? Is it through a customised or "responsive" web site (one that varies according to the device)? Or is it just through the retailer’s standard desktop browser?

By contrast, a tablet is really just a little laptop computer. You’re probably using it in your own sitting room, and connecting to the internet through your existing domestic Wi-Fi network. It doesn’t necessarily require a special web site, and it should be relatively secure. To call it mobile is misleading; "untethered" is possibly nearer the mark.

Then there’s click and collect. Does it mean collecting from the retailer’s own shop – possibly quite a trek, and not very different from what we once called "shopping"? Or does it mean collecting from a local drop-off point or locker bank? These options, surely, are a completely different proposition. They’re a kind of alternative home delivery, dictated by the consumer, not the retailer.

Such distinctions matter, because retailers and carriers will be formulating policy on the basis of statistics about these things. If that means you, then don’t be tricked by creative use of data; base your plans on reality. And if you’re a consumer, don’t let it happen.

Nothing less than the future shape of home shopping could be at stake.


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