Over the last year, slightly under half of UK respondents aged 16-75 visited a mobile operator’s store; 12 per cent visited in the prior month. Currently, there are about 1,900 mobile operator stores in the UK.
Is this a healthy percentage, or does this demonstrate indifference?
In this year’s survey, 40 per cent of respondents aged 18-75 stated that they had purchased their phone online, and 34 per cent in store. Last year the corresponding proportions were 38 per cent and 35 per cent.
Given the UK public’s growing tendency towards buying online, is there still a need for nearly 2,000 mobile operator stores?
However, while mobile is firmly mainstream, it has been in a state of constant evolution over the last two decades in terms of networks, handsets and applications. And mobile’s evolution is likely to continue over the next few years. For example, as of 2017, there are three generations of mobile network (2G, 3G and 4G), operating concurrently. By 2020, 5G should have launched, and will co-exist with the existing network technologies.
Choosing a smartphone is, and is likely to remain, daunting. The wrong decision can lead to two years and thirty thousand glances of regret.
Over the coming years, smartphones and the range of services of support will become more sophisticated than ever before.
The smartphone is, and is likely to remain, inherently tactile and is also, for many, an expensive purchase. While many may transact online, they may also wish to hold and interact with the product along their purchase journey.
Some customers may also need advice on the growing range of options for acquiring the handset including leasing and finance.
Our view is that, at this stage of the market and over the medium term, there will continue to be a need for operator stores – possibly with increasing capillarity. There is likely to be a growing variety of formats, including store-in-store and an increased use of pop-up stores, with the latter deployed seasonally to dispense product and advice.
When optimally deployed – and there is more and more data available on spending patterns, population distribution and footfall – operator stores should be able to drive airtime sales, improve brand loyalty and diminish churn.
More than 50% of smartphone users visited a physical mobile operator store in the last year
41% of all smartphone owners surveyed have never gone into a physical store to get information about their contract or to query their bill
40% of smartphones were purchased online, compared to 34% in store