On a balmy June evening, after an afternoon of highly competitive go karting, the Criteo team headed off for some well-earned refreshments. It was on this walk when I noticed some of the team laughing in small groups and running randomly across the street. Gotcha! Pokémon GO had landed and the world was going crazy for the app. It was amazing to see a brand that I thought had disappeared years ago delivering a level of consumer insight unlike any other. What's more, there was a similar reaction amongst the investor community and with Niantic Labs' share price spiking by 86%. Within a week, the game had more daily users than Twitter, and higher levels of engagement than Facebook.
The digital ecosystem is just starting to wake up to the post millennial era. With the majority of 12-17 year olds now owning a smartphone, technology is strongly influencing the Gen Z demographic in terms of communication and education. Many of these users are spending large parts of their disposable income through their phones too.
So if having fun with AR could finally now be becoming mainstream and the new generation of tech savvy shoppers are growing rapidly, how much opportunity is there for ecommerce brands who want to create fun experiences to drive engagement and, of course, revenue? Where Pokémon GO has created its own recipe for success by combining location, maps and gaming, could mobile commerce create its own formula for fun?
When will mobile shopping catch up to Pokémon GO in the fun stakes?
A recent study conducted by Criteo and ICM found that most (74%) UK consumers enjoy the overall experience of shopping - at the shops, on a computer, or on mobile. This is even more pronounced in the young: 81% of millennials enjoy shopping. Heavy social media users are much more likely to enjoy the experience of shopping than those that don't.
In the Post-Pokémon Go era, the next natural step for mobile commerce is to move beyond merely transactional experiences and make the process exciting, fun and pleasurable.
A quarter (24%) of UK consumers say they'd be encouraged to book more hotels on mobile if the experience was more enjoyable. Similarly, a fifth (20%) would buy technology products on mobile if the experience was more pleasurable.
But how far have UK retailers come in the journey to make mobile shopping a fun, enjoyable experience?
My daughter's favourite game at the moment is a Barbie dress and design app. It allows her to dress each Barbie individually and customise materials and looks. She'll then proudly take photos for my perusal - worrying as she is only four years old!
This experience is not hugely dissimilar to the growing number of real life apps doing this in the fashion world. Covet Fashions is an app which enables consumers to compile their own 'looks' based on items from different retailers. Outfits are then voted on by other users and awarded style points and virtual rewards. For retailers, there's direct purchase links seamlessly combining social and sales.
Likewise, L'Oreal' Make-up Genius is one of a new wave of beauty apps. It has a real-time camera that turns a phone into a virtual mirror and allows users to virtually 'sample' any beauty product or shade. I gave it a go myself and I looked like a cross between Barbara Cartland and Eddie Izzard, but for the right audience this would be great, especially on the larger phablet screens.
A personal favourite of mine is the Vivino wine label scanner. A hugely helpful tool when it comes to buying and choosing wine. The function which allows me to scan a wine list in a restaurant and get aggregate assessments of the quality of the wine is especially useful and also allows me to find and buy the wine I had at a restaurant for the best possible price. Though you may get unapprovingly looks from some sommeliers, it's the perfect shopping companion.
Mobile's 'Fun Formula'
To make shopping on mobile a fun, enjoyable and social activity, retailers need to focus on delivering contextual creative experiences, messaging and advertising that respond to individuals' needs and desires in the moment, wherever they are and however they're feeling.
With the traditional in-store retail environment facing increasing pressure to grow and differentiate from the competition, a mobile experience which moves beyond usability is crucial for attracting a younger generation who turn increasingly to their phone rather the high street.
And as consumers begin to view mobile shopping as a leisure activity, they'll be more likely to buy higher value products and services.
Retailers shouldn't need a Pokéball to catch 'em all - just an effective targeting strategy that is engaging enough to standout in an increasingly competitive retail marketplace.