2014 predictions: Retailers

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Phones 4U COO Scott Hooton says consumers will consider what a handset does rather than its design, eXpansys CEO Anthony Catterson is expecting a year of mergers and consolidation and Mobile Fun MD Mohammed Hussain sees wearable technology making big inroads

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Scott Hooton – COO, Phones 4U

4G dominated the headlines in 2013 and we’ll continue to see data define our mobile experiences in 2014. Our lives are increasingly connected across an array of devices and data powers this experience. From email and video streaming to web browsing and social media, greater access to data brings these richer experiences to life. 4G adoption is gaining momentum, accounting for at least 49 per cent of all connections at Phones 4u alone, and this is only set to increase.

When people come to consider their next phone, factors such as the manufacturer, operating system and overall design are all still very important to them, but the overall experience and potential for additional services is rocketing up their list of priorities. The smartphone is an essential tool for many people’s everyday lives. These devices have become ingrained in people’s day-to-day world, and this is only set to become more significant as healthcare innovations filter through to market. More and more people are realising that a flash looking handset in their pocket is of little use to them if it doesn’t allow them to do the things that are most important to them, like swiftly sharing photos or video with friends, or being able to access them across their own devices.

The awareness and popularity of wearable tech in particular is also set to grow in 2014. While some predict that wearable tech will slowly eclipse the smartphone, we believe mobile phones will continue to feature at the centre of the consumer technology experience, with phablets, tablets and wearable tech acting as complementary, connected, experiences.

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Anthony Catterson – CEO, eXpansys

I expect 2014 to be a year of  mergers and acquisitions and consolidation across the sector, with activity at operator, distributor, manufacturer and retailer/reseller level.

Operators: I expect at least one of the large US-based operators to establish a European business based around a large acquisition, and European-based operators will continue to try and monetise data, and improve LTV of their customers through ownership of content (Vodafone to bid for Sky?).  As has already begun,

I expect operators to reduce indirect channel subsidy/support further, and look to generate a greater percentage of their business directly.

Manufacturers/brands: I expect much bigger things from the Asian manufacturers. Distributors will continue to need to grow their footprint and service range as they try and move up the value chain and perform a greater proportion of the carrier/manufacturer sales and back-office functions.

Retailers will continue to come under pressure as the supplier-direct strategies reduce margins further, and also reduce overall volume in the market. Physical retailers will need to reduce their real estate portfolio further to keep costs under control.

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Mohammed Hussain – MD, Mobile Fun

As the year progresses, we will become more connected than ever before with wearable technology making further inroads into the mainstream. Smart watches will become more common and so will personal health monitoring – devices such as Jawbone’s Up and Fitbit’s products are just the first of a new wave of lifestyle-oriented wearable tech.

In the smartphone market there are early signs that Google’s investment in Motorola is bearing fruit. Google’s Android phones offer great value for money, the Moto G is exceptionally good in this respect. I expect to see Google launching more products through Motorola in 2014. In a similar vein, Nokia will build traction with mass market smartphones by focusing on great features with wide appeal – delivered at attractive price points. The combined power of Nokia and Microsoft will help drive innovation and lead to more competition, which should be good for consumers.

Expect to see Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei and Xiaomi making a splash in 2014. While their products may not offer the same brand experience as Apple and Samsung, Chinese firms will set new standards in terms of price and features.

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