Launch of 4G to bring billions in retail spending

THE WIDESPREAD arrival of high speed 4G mobile internet could add billions to UK retail spending, new research claims.

A study by retail analysts Conlumino, commissioned by eBay, says that the widespread availability of 4G will see Britons spend £1.8bn more a year, due to the technology’s faster and more reliable connections.

This represents a 113 per cent rise in mobile shopping, among the first benefits of 4G, which is estimated to bring £20bn to the economy over the next 10 years.

The UK’s largest mobile operator, Orange and T-Mobile owner EE, launched a 4G network last year. O2 and Vodafone will start to offer 4G from early summer, making the service available to the vast majority of UK consumers.

4G allows average data speeds five to 10 times faster than current 3G networks, meaning that shoppers are less likely to become frustrated at slow downloads of apps and pages, and so spend more via mobiles.

The research claims that speed and reliability are the major factors limiting mobile shopping, with around half of shoppers citing it as the major roadblock. Around one third of British adults use their mobiles during some part of the shopping process, for example checking prices when on the high street and browsing or reading reviews, but only one in 10 use their smartphones to purchase items.

Despite the increase in overall retail spending generated by 4G, the rise of mobile shopping is likely to hasten the decline of the high street, as the ease of on-the-go price comparison and online ordering means stores losing out to nimble online competitors.

“Retailers today must take every chance to engage consumers, inspiring them and giving them every possible opportunity to buy and interact with their brands,” Conlumino’s Neil Saunders said. “With universal 4G on the horizon, retailers can’t afford to stand still.”

EBay Europe’s senior director of mobile commerce Olivier Ropars, who is predicting a surge in auction fees due to more mobile shoppers, said: “Retailers must act now and think about the virtual shop window, to turn this huge opportunity into an exciting reality.”