It’s only a few years since shoppers would turn over their favourite pages of a dog-eared catalogue in the run up to Christmas, birthday or seasonal splurge. But, as the technical revolution has swept us into a world of hyper-connectivity and super-efficiency, the humble catalogue has swiftly become outdated.

In its place, mobile e-commerce has taken centre stage as the entertainment centre of shopping. But just what are savvy retailers doing to inject the same excitement for spending with killer apps?

Bargain hunters

It’s a well-known fact that everyone loves a deal – even if they don’t buy in. Sites like Groupon, Travel Zoo and Secret Escape put a tech-savvy spin on the boring old coupon by collating their users’ favourite online shopping searches and delivering the best deals and offers direct to their door – or inbox!

These deals are basically ‘loss leaders’, which means that although the vendor will almost certainly make a loss on the sale, the value is in enticing people through the door in the hope that they’ll spend money on other items or return in future.

Mail-shots are, of course, slick in functionality and design, so that even without a particularly high sale-per-click ratio on these bargainous buys, there’s likely to be some interaction from the consumer. And if participation was to increase brand awareness and likability, something can be gained from dropping those prices and getting your product and logo in front of a targeted audience.

Let me entertain you

The purpose of mobile ecommerce is becoming less about the sell and more about interaction and entertainment. In a nutshell, competition for consumer attention is rife, and to get ahead of the competition, brands must reach out to offer their target audience something to actively engage with. In short: they have to entertain.

For instance, fashion retailer Net-A-Porter send out a daily ‘trend report’ linking to articles, rather than products. This is noteworthy because it indicates that rather than engaging to sell, the nice folks at Net-A-Porter are reaching out to enhance their customer’s fashion experience, whether or not ultimately leads to a sale.

Apps are also now being developed for social shopping. Basically, ‘Trendabl’ takes all the transferable features from the likes of Pinterest and Twitter and amalgamates them into a nifty shopping tool for keen fashionistas. Designed for the basic purpose of browsing rather than shopping, this app is the ultimate tool for engagement, retention and growth.

Offering a helping hand

And this is where Topshop and ASOS have jumped on the bandwagon. Both of these fashion retail giants have developed apps to offer style inspiration and showcase celebrity trends – not selling. The point it this: consumers are voluntarily opening apps and pulling themselves in to purchase products rather than being pushed, making for a much more favourable customer experience.

Companies today no longer focus on immediate conversions – engagement is the new driver, and the more time a user voluntarily looks at the products, the more likely they’ll be to eventually convert their browsing into buying.

And it’s not just for retailers…

Whilst retailers have naturally been the first to take advantage of the mobile takeover, the likes of Match.com and eHarmony – ecommerce sites for the romantically inclined – weren’t far behind.

However, for these sites – designed originally for the ailing desktop – customers are first required to build a profile detailing their ‘features and spec’; a long list of likes and dislikes, does’ and doesn’t’s, topped off with a single snap to share with the online dating world. This can be both stressful and time consuming. So stressful, in fact, that you can now hire a professional consultant to help build your perfect profile.

It was only a matter of time before a new kid on the block came to revolutionise the mobile dating arena. And that kid was Tinder. Like the fashion shopping apps, Tinder starts with fun. No profile, no high expectations of finding ‘the one’, and no harrowing they-didn’t-like-me-back moments – because you’ll never find out. Hopefully you’ll find a date, but in the meantime you’re enjoying yourself window shopping.

Through engaging the consumer in an unpressured, human way, organisations like Net-a-Porter and ASOS are dominating the online world. There’s no doubt about it – the future is customer engagement. So how would you like to be wooed by your favourite brands?