EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 277 - December 19, 2010 - ISSN 1528-6703     4 of 7

Five Things Merchants Should Know About Mobile Commerce

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Mobile commerce continues to pick up steam as more consumers use smartphones to research products, compare prices, find local inventory and buy products. Usablenet is a global technology company that has been working with leading brands since 2000 and translates their existing website content and functionality to mobile Web, Facebook, kiosk, tablet and assistive solutions; clients include FedEx, Kenneth Cole, American Eagle, Walgreens and Estee Lauder.

Jason Taylor is Vice President of Global Product Strategy at Usablenet, and today he shares some insight about mobile shopping and what online merchants need to know to keep up with this increasingly important area of ecommerce.

AuctionBytes: What is mobile commerce, and why is it so important to website owners?

Jason Taylor: Mobile commerce is the ability to have a complete and successful ecommerce experience on your mobile phone. This means that functionalities typically associated with ecommerce will be available and optimized for Internet enabled mobile phones.

The benefits of mobile commerce for merchants are significant in that it provides a powerful new revenue opportunity by creating an additional sales channel at the customer's fingertips. Additionally, mobile commerce is a natural bridge between ecommerce websites and brick-and-mortar stores. In the case of retailers, for example, their customers can bring the online experience into the store via their mobile phones - allowing for a more educated shopper.

Many functionalities that are only available online, like searching product reviews, conducting price comparisons or accessing gift registries, can be brought into the store to enhance the overall shopping experience. And for retailers that do not have a physical store like Bluefly.com or Net-a-Porter, mobile is a natural extension that makes it convenient for consumers to access their sites anytime, anywhere.

AuctionBytes: Can merchants on a budget take advantage of mobile commerce?

Jason Taylor: Yes. Depending on their budget, merchants can pick and choose which features and functionalities on their website are most important to be optimized for mobile. Merchants on a budget do not have to optimize all features of their ecommerce websites to mobile right off the bat; instead, they can identify the essential features to start with and build from there.

Additionally, it's important to remember that the benefits gained from giving customers 24/7 access to a merchant's brand will generate tangible ROI that outweighs the associated costs. Merchants should recognize that going mobile is an essential way to effectively reach a new generation of consumers who spend most of their online time using smartphones.

AuctionBytes: What are the five key things online merchants of all sizes should know about mobile commerce to help them improve their ecommerce business?

1) Mobile-Web Consistency: It is crucial to create a seamless customer experience. This can be achieved by maintaining consistent information and functionality from their existing website to mobile. Customers are easily frustrated and are always one-click away from not completing a transaction. So creating an effortless mcommerce experience is necessary. A great example is keeping log-in information and customer history interchangeable across channels - this allows a customer to start the shopping process online, and be able to seamlessly complete this process on their phones later, and vice versa.

2) Community Building: Online merchants should view mobile as a long-term strategy. Mobile is one of the best ways to reach people who will become evangelists and enthusiastically spread the word about their brand. By creating a mobile environment that generates excitement around a brand, they influence the way people encourage friends and family to make additional purchases.

This is where a functionality like social sharing through email, Facebook and Twitter comes in. Additionally, features like mobile wishlist or gift registry are also applicable because they encourage friends and families to collaborate on purchases online and in-store.

3) UI (User Interface) Matters: In designing your mobile site, it's important to understand the mobile user's behavior to create the best customer experience. This means identifying the most important functionalities for the customer on-the-go, and creating a UI that is mindful of a much smaller screen. In addition, the overall branding and aesthetics of a merchant's mobile commerce site are extremely important, so making sure that your site is not just another template storefront but that it really incorporates all of your company's essential branding elements.

4) Drive In-Store Traffic: For online merchants with a physical store, incorporating local features like a store locator is incredibly valuable, and retailers must ensure that their mobile website supports GPS and other location-based elements. Another good example is coupons. Delivering coupons and discounts directly to consumers' smartphones is a great way to generate excitement about their brand and drive additional traffic to the physical store.

5) Device Agnostic: Finally, merchants should develop a secure, robust mobile website that works on all Internet-enabled phones. A successful mobile experience is one that works for all users, no matter what phone they use. Then, once a merchant has their mobile website well established, it is a great idea to expand their mobile strategy with the creation of compelling applications for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc., to develop deeper customer brand loyalty.

You can learn more on the Usablenet website and by following Usablenet on Twitter.


About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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