Mobile shopping has been one of the hottest trends of 2011, and there are no signs of it slowing down. After rising more than 90 percent this year, mobile commerce will grow at a rate of 73.1 percent in 2012, according to eMarketer.
Should small business owners be thinking about getting into the mobile space? Igor Faletski, CEO of Mobify, said the first thing to determine is what percentage of your traffic is currently coming from mobile devices. Most good web analytics reporting software will provide this information, he said, and Google Analytics will even break it out by device.
"Most websites today see between 5% and 20% of their traffic from mobile devices. That might not seem like a lot, but that number is always under reported."
Many platforms and content management systems now have a mobile option, and there are many quick and simple mobile website builders, such as Mobify Studio. But Faletski says he encourages retailers to build their mobile web presence for the long run.
The best way to sell via mobile is going to be a little different for each retailer, he said. "Find the core experience your customers need on your website, and then optimize that experience for mobile devices. Our larger clients usually have $10 million in annual ecommerce revenues and at least 5% of their traffic coming from mobile. If they meet those quick guidelines, we always see a revenue lift larger than their investment in the first 100 days after launch."
Mobify, founded in 2007 and based in Vancouver, B.C., also has clients with smaller revenue numbers and higher than 5% traffic coming from mobile, or clients where mobile is a primary way for them to grab market share. Clients include Threadless and Alibris. Faletski emphasized that mobile commerce will continue to grow for the next several years, so rather than a quick fix to convert your site for mobile devices, he suggests online merchants take time and do the job right.
Mobile Daily Deals, Location-Based Offers, and SMS Marketing
Faletski said daily deal offers continue to be hot with consumers so long as they make sense and can be fulfilled, while location-based offers are more rare and aren't really well understood yet by retailers. He doesn't see much appetite or use of SMS for marketing and offers.
"The real core of the shopping experience on mobile is not much different from the core shopping experience on ecommerce," he said. "People want to be able to search and find what they're seeking, see related items, see product details and create orders or do full transactions."
Alibris Marketplace Pioneers Mobile Commerce
Alibris, an online marketplace in the media space, is a Mobify client, and was one of the real pioneers in mobile ecommerce, according to Faletski. "They've got outstanding repeat purchase behavior and customer loyalty, so their mobile site is really streamlined to provide those customers with the best shopping experience."
For Alibris' book listings, for example, that means simple, easy and comprehensive search with clean listing pages that display all the relevant details to browsers. Big buttons help with navigation and obvious next steps for continuing the transaction or saving the product for later make it easy for consumers to do business with them.
Mobify published a case study showing how it helped Alibris grow mobile traffic.
Mobile Shopping Trends
Consumers are starting to expect to be able to search, shop and interact from their mobile devices the same as they do on their desktop sites, and Faletski said he only sees that trend accelerating in 2012. "Mobile traffic is growing every month and is projected to continue to grow until it surpasses desktop traffic in 2014."
The next big area of growth is in tablets. The user interaction is similar with pinching, zooming, tapping and swiping, and the screen is bigger, so a hybrid approach between the desktop site and the mobile site is required.
While mobile sales are following similar patterns as desktop ecommerce sales, the average order size tends be a little smaller and conversion rates about the same, depending on the site. Some mobile commerce sites even have higher conversion rates because they're streamlined down to the core site experience.
The big additional behavior Faletski sees on mobile is cross-device shopping - consumers researching and shopping on their mobile then completing the transaction later on their desktop. This is a key pattern, especially for any purchase that requires consultation like travel, electronics and gifts.
Bonobos.com Goes Mobile
For an example of a Mobify client, go to the Bonobos mobile site on your smartphone (www.bonobos.com), and you'll see an emphasis on a single image and a prominent button that includes a call to action. For this season, you see a Cyber Days Sale message and a button that says Start Shopping.
The same approach applies to product listings. On the small screen, you see a single image called a "hero shot," and a green button that says Add to Cart. Product specs are listed below; alternate images are indicated with a series of dots (click a dot, and you access another view of the clothing you're shopping for).
Mobify has a free solution, so any small business can get started with a mobile site at no cost. However, those using the free version will need to have some technical skills with HTML and CSS to progress. "We have a number of clients who use the free or few-hundred-a-month options to run their mobile sites with great success," said Faletski.
"Since each mobile site has its own opportunity for new revenues and improved conversions, the investment levels can be variable. We encourage our customers to consider their return on investment in a mobile site in time from its launch. Our customers get a positive ROI within 100 days of launching. That's something we're really proud of and we work hard to deliver. Some of our customers get a positive ROI in as few as 2 or 3 days, but those are large ecommerce sites."
In terms of hard costs, they can range from a few hundred dollars a month to a few thousand, with additional costs for customization, ongoing optimization, performance guarantees and more. For large ecommerce sites, the total can reach into the mid six-figure range, and they still see the positive ROI in less than 100 days, according to Faletski. "It's all about matching the right investment to the level the opportunity warrants."
Look at your own site, identify the core shopping experience, and emulate that on a mobile version, and you'll go a long way toward taking full advantage of this shopping trend. You can find more information about the different Mobify plans on the Mobify website.