Mobile commerce is growing. And consumers’ use of mobile devices is growing. But mobile commerce is not for all ecommerce merchants. This article will help answer the question, “Is mobile commerce important for my site?”
Merchants can analyze the applicability of mobile commerce to their businesses by focusing on the “Four P’s”: Products, Promotions, Payment and Presentation.
Most products — but not all — are a good fit for mobile platforms. The bulk of the mobile commerce transactions are based on impulse or convenience. Big-ticket items are not usually sold on mobile devices because customers require more research, and many still have concerns related to the overall security of mobile transactions. These big-ticket products include items like expensive jewelry, machinery and equipment. And products that require customers to give more inputs — such as the size of a window for blinds— before making a sale are not a good fit for mobile commerce as mobile devices, with their smaller keyboards, do not allow easy data entry. Apps and games are a good fit for mobile commerce, but software meant for a desktop operating system is not. As a retailer, review your product set and gauge your customers to decide if they will buy your products via a mobile device. But remember, even though your products may not fit a mobile platform, your consumers may still use their mobile devices for research. This makes it extremely important to review your product content and optimize it for the mobile user.
One of the biggest benefits of mobile commerce is the ability to leverage the always-connected state of a mobile device to send real-time promotions. This has been further extended to offer location-based promotions. If your business has a brick-and-mortar presence then you can push promotions to consumers when they are near or in your store. If the business is online only then the promotions can be offered based on where the consumer is shopping. For example, a consumer that is in a competitor’s physical arts-and-crafts store can be sent promotions on art supplies, driving an immediate purchase. Amazon has an iPhone app that allows consumers to scan the bar code of any product to see if Amazon can offer a better price.
Customers could use a similar app, presumably, to get instant discounts on products immediately after scanning their bar codes. The hypothetical app could also be used to find similar products with promotional pricing. Several SMS messaging services are available that help businesses target consumers with these kind of promotions. If your site cannot offer these kinds of promotions, it will not be able to maximize the benefits from mobile commerce.
Ease of payment is extremely critical for the success of a mobile site or app. The most convenient option is to add the charge to the customer’s mobile phone bill and avoid the entry of payment information. Most customers also perceive this as relatively secure. The other options are similar to the payment options provided on a desktop website, but the user interface for mobile should have the least number of steps to complete the purchase. PayPal and Google checkout are, at times, considered better than credit card checkout as they allow customers to sign in to their accounts and check out from there. This reduces the number of steps for checkout. It also helps (a) overcome the perception that a site may not handle the credit card securely, (b) avoid PCI compliance issues, and (c) cut the data entry on the small mobile keyboard. If your store has a physical presence, by accepting mobile payments — like Square — you can save on credit card interchange fees. If your mobile site is not designed to use these alternative payment options, you are likely limiting sales.
Mobile commerce transactions are usually on a device with a 3-inch screen. Your site’s presentation should be updated for the small screen by creating a different version of your site, or changing the existing site altogether. A user should see the complete functionality on the screen without having to scroll around a larger page. If your customer base uses mostly iPhone, Blackberry or Android devices, it makes sense to create separate apps for those devices. There are several vendors that can help build your mobile presence. These include Mobify and Wapple. Most of the hosted shopping carts also have plugins or third-party offerings that can enable your site for mobile commerce. If your site is not using one of these vendors, then the investment to build a brand new site or app will be much greater. That will require a return on investment analysis — keeping the growth of mobile commerce in mind — before making the investment.
Mobile commerce is here to stay. If you have the funds to invest in mobile without worrying about immediate returns, now is the time to make that investment. Your site will be one of the early adopters of leading technology and will offer another opportunity to engage your consumers. The mobile site or app may not result in generating more revenue, but it will definitely increase the site’s traffic, which eventually leads to more revenue.