Consumers are set to spend £53.6 billion a year using their smartphones and tablets by 2024, compared with the £9.7 billion spent today, according to new research by Barclays.

By 2024, said Barclays, 42 percent of all retail sales will involve a mobile device in some way or another, making mobile the fastest growing retail segment. This comes as consumers are targeted with location specific in-store marketing, initiatives such as augmented reality, and convenient click and collect services.

Barclays branch
Barclays says that retailers are realising that mobile tech provides an opportunity to increase sales through stores. Image credit: Barclays

Richard Lowe, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays, said: “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.”

The number of tablet users has doubled in each of the past two years, with almost half of adults now owning one, while smartphone penetration has reached 61 percent. By 2019 around three quarters of adults are predicted to own a smartphone, said Barclays..

The accessibility of mobile internet when shopping on mobile devices has become a big issue for customers. In the research, among 1,500 UK consumers and 220 retailers, 47 percent of consumers cited signal problems as the number one issue with mobile in general, while 40 percent pointed to connection problems with accessing mobile internet once they actually have any coverage.

Among the respondents, 57 percent said all shops should offer free wifi, with a further 42 percent saying they are always on the lookout for free wifi when out and about. Currently though, only 14 percent of retailers offer in-store wifi, and only 7 percent more plan to invest in it in the future.

Less than 3 percent of retailers believe their business is at the “cutting-edge” when it comes to being mobile ready and a further 70 percent said they did not currently offer a mobile website or a mobile app for consumers.

Retailers claim their reluctance to invest in wifi 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.

Lowe said: “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. 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.”