First, let me say that I am not an expert on mobile eCommerce. But, it's time to start paying attention to the impact that the iPhone, iPad, Android devices, and so forth are having on how people shop online. I suspect that we will all need to be fairly savvy about mobile eCommerce in a fairly short period of time.
Watch Your Mobile Traffic!
Back in February, Brendan Gibbons from Practical eCommerce interviewed me for the article Mobile Commerce: Experts Offer Strategy for Smaller Merchants. At that point, I had not really thought too much about optimizing our stores for the mobile web or what other impacts it might have on our business. I glanced quickly at the visits from mobile devices and realized I should pay more attention.
Since then, I've been watching the growing traffic from the iPhone, iPod, Blackberry, iPad, and Android devices. During the last 30 days, 1% of our visits came from one of those devices. On days when we send out newsletters, the number of mobile visits almost doubles. Not eye popping, but enough that I would not want to "lose" business because my websites are not friendly to small screens.
Back in late October when Google Analytics first supported tracking mobile devices, we were receiving about 1/3 of the visits per day that we see currently. Page views on smart phones are about 50% of what we normally see on desktop or laptop computers, but that's still pretty good considering our stores are not optimized at all for mobile viewing. The current "growth curve" I see for mobile devices could mean that 2-5% of our visits may come from small screens in the next year!
The iPad is the one that really catches my attention though. Besides growing very quickly in the number of visits to our websites, page views on the iPad are slightly higher than other platforms. Our websites render beautifully (except for Flash- see more below) and quickly on the iPad and offer a very good shopping experience without a mobile website.
I don't own one yet (it's in the budget), but I envision a LOT of shopping being done on the iPad and other future tablet devices.
The Flash Dilemma
The Apple/Adobe Flash Wars are of immediate concern. I suggest you monitor your traffic from mobile devices if you are not already doing it. If you use Flash, it may be time to say "bye-bye" to it. Our home page on abeadstore.com uses it right now it looks pretty silly on the iPad (or any device without Flash). We will be replacing flash on our websites in the coming weeks largely because we want to offer the same experience on Apple's mobile devices that we do on other platforms.
If you use Flash for video, you may be facing a similar challenge. We don't use video, but are planning to, so we need to ensure cross platform/browser compatability when we finally implement it.
Many larger retailers are building mobile websites that detect the device and redirect you to a website that renders for a small screen. Our eCommerce platform, Netsuite, does not currently support a mobile website. I suspect that will be addressed sometime in the future, but in the meantime, I will be exploring some other way of capturing either leads, carts, or orders from smart phones.
As more people use smart phones for email, the ability to view your website from newsletter links will become more important. As we all know, you may only get a single chance to compel someone to buy from a newsletter promotion. That one chance may be from a smart phone. Does your website allow a good shopping experience from a smart phone? If not, how do you get your prospects to come back and place an order on their desktop or laptop?
I see a big opportunity for widgets or for iPhone/Android shopping apps. No big plans there yet, but I see a LOT of potential for getting people to engage in a shopping experience that way.
Facebook may also eventually be a place to conduct mobile business. We'll see how that evolves over the coming year or so as well.
It's time to start paying attention to mobile eCommerce. It may not affect your bottom line for a year or two, but there may be things you can do to set yourself up for the future right now.
I'd love to hear what others are doing in this area! In many ways it feels like eCommerce did when we got into the game in 2002.
Kerry Murdock says:
This is a great post, Dale.
NetSuite, the platform you use for your company, I believe, is busy working on mobile delivery options, as you know. We interviewed an executive there, Malin Huffman, a couple of months ago about the mobile commerce topic. Here it is in case you didn't catch it:
Thank you, as always.
Dale Traxler says:
Thanks Kerry. I did know Netsuite was evaluating options. Can't wait on them to make decisions though, big tech companies don't usually lead the curve on stuff like this. I expect one of their partners will figure this out before they do.