Consumers are increasingly using their mobile phones when shopping, with 48.1% of UK online shoppers using a mobile device to make a purchase in the last 12 months, according to GlobalData’s 2018 E-retail survey. Retailers should exploit the opportunities mobile messaging brings, using it as a tool to drive shopper engagement and capture impulse spend.

Shoppers’ desire for convenience and availability means players fighting for retail spend in an increasingly competitive market must respond to the shift in consumer behaviour by taking advantage of the real-time purchase and personalised service opportunities that messaging services can provide.

Despite social media being intrinsically embedded in consumers’ daily lives, messaging services such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are being overlooked by retailers, with very few players incorporating these platforms into their digital marketing campaigns or using them as purchasing channels. More recently, we have seen retailers experiment with messaging apps, for example, Burberry ramped up advertising on China’s popular social media app WeChat last year in a bid to boost sales, while online pureplay Net-a-Porter collaborated with WhatsApp to develop a function that allows shoppers to purchase directly through the messaging app.

Many shoppers are already using WhatsApp to contact friends and family, therefore retailers will not need to convince consumers to use this channel – only take advantage of consumers’ familiarity with the platform, offering a close, conversational style, personalised dialogue between them and their customers, and driving shopper spend via in-app purchasing. As consumers become accustomed to shopping via messaging apps, expectations will rise meaning players should take full advantage of this tool in a bid to increase conversion.

Threads, a UK-based luxury retailer has capitalised on the shift towards mobile messaging, recently raising $20m, (£15.6m) in funding to drive growth and extend its global reach. The retailer provides a chat commerce platform that allows shoppers to purchase clothing and accessories through social media and WhatsApp. Other retailers, particularly those targeting younger shoppers, must seize the opportunity that messaging services present using messenger-specific promotions, sending stock alerts for in-demand items and providing newsletters and new-in information via messenger to generate sales, while also providing a means of purchasing in-app.