Richard Whitehouse, MD of Direct Solutions, part of online giant Dial-A-Phone, said that 2008 will be marked by companies who offer more guidance and help with the decision-making process.
‘There is every indication that more and more people are becoming more comfortable shopping online for more products. It’s growing exponentially year-on-year,’ he said.
‘There are two challenges for the online mobile industry in 2008. The first is to make the sales process as simple as possible at the back end because there’s a hell of a lot of information required in the transaction. But the big one is at the front end; explaining what the customer is getting and why that is the deal for them. As things stand, online mobile retail caters for people who want a Samsung G600 on O2 on a specific tariff. What about the customer who doesn’t know anything more than that they want to buy a mobile phone? We need to introduce some guidance to help with the selection process.
‘Top sellers and latest offers don’t do enough to crack the range of choice. The Amazon model of ‘people like you also bought this’ isn’t appropriate because people don’t buy multiple contracts. The focus has got to be on trying to lead the customer with the route they want to go down.
‘Manufacturers are talking about trying to do something themselves online with something more than just Sim-free deals. If they move into pure retail, they know the relationship with networks is at stake. They can’t risk getting a small extra business and risk losing a lot. But I think manufacturers will look at tying up with networks and offering through their own sites.
‘I think that was true a couple of years ago, but the bigger players have got much better sites. For the smaller players, online is no longer a leveller. They need to invest a lot on the site to keep up with the big guys.
‘Prepay is still the difficult area. There’s a huge bias on prepay in the run-up to Christmas and it still appears to be the case that prepay shoppers prefer shoving their pay-as-you-go handset into their basket while they are shopping for groceries. It still appears to be an impulse purchase for the majority, which works well for the supermarkets and general retailers. The margins are so thin on prepay, that the websites are not really pushing it. But it’s still bizarre that prepay has lagged behind contract online.’