Alex Baldock is the Chief Executive Officer of Shop Direct, a company that owns websites including very.co.uk and littlewoods.com. He puts the company’s recent record revenues down to the growth in mobile commerce. Baldock said that in the last four years’ sales via mobile have gone from zero to 60%. In fact, sales via mobile phones grew by 51% in the last year alone. As a result, the company has axed its 80-year-old catalogue business and is now a pure play online retailer. This is remarkable given that in 2012 over 70% of sales came via its catalogues.
Baldock implies that these sales are mainly coming via the website but is not explicit and the company offers mobile apps. These have some innovations that make shopping on a small device easier. For example, a catalogue of over 40,000 items is hard to search on a mobile. So Shop Direct added a feature that allows a customer to take a photo of an item and then it will search for items that are similar in its catalogue.
A turnaround for the books
What’s interesting about these figures is that research has shown that mobile commerce has been struggling. At CIC we recently wrote a paper on mobile commerce that explored some market data and the reasons behind the low sales figures through mobile phones.
Of course for many people today mobile also includes tablets and that is where the data showed more success in generating sales. Customers tend to browse via their phone but buy via a larger device such as a tablet. Mainly because once you get to the point of buying the process becomes more difficult and timely than on a larger device.
Mobile’s winning factor: great User Experience
Shop Direct claims to employ some of the best mobile commerce people in the industry and the results might be down to creating a great mobile shopping experience. The company has won awards for its websites in the past. As we outlined in our paper a lot of the issues that people have with mobile commerce can be overcome with better user experience. Perhaps it is no surprise that Shop Direct were the first UK retailer (their claim) to create an in-house UX lab.
A lesson in software security TalkTalk….get a strong supporting partner
In light of recent events at TalkTalk Baldock also highlights the importance to security when it comes to online retailing. Big names in the industry have been burned by security breaches in recent years and all organisations should invest in security, especially in mobile which exposes sensitive data outside of the corporate firewall. Security is of course something that CIC has been covering and promoting good practice for many years. It is good to hear end users like Shop Direct emphasising its importance.
Finally, Baldock found time to praise not just his own in-house team but partners such as IBM.
IBM’s security investments paying off for all
IBM has been investing heavily in not just mobile development through its MobileFirst portfolio in recent years, but also services that support mobile: whether that’s app features or backend integration. However, one of the vendor’s most compelling and important support features has been its security services and tooling capabilities.
In fact, IBM’s Integrated Security Business unit has shown that it is becoming a significant driver of growth for the company with the release of its overall 2015 third quarter financial results which saw another double digit growth for IBM Security.
Certainly the investments made by IBM since the creation of the Security Systems and Security Services division in 2012 are paying off and being recognised not only by the company’s CEO Ginni Rometty but more importantly by clients like Shop Direct.
Ultimately, software security goes hand in hand with Mobile commerce and application development along with a great user experience. It is clear that Alex Baldock and his team at Shop Direct recognise this and are reaping the financial and customer benefits from the investments and partnerships they have made.
It is a lesson that TalkTalk who suffered a significant software security breach on Wednesday 21st October could well use. Further Iinsights to TalkTalk’s software security woes can be seen on the FT.com’s website.