Quick Query: Covario’s Stephan Spencer on Mobile Commerce

An increasing number of consumers access the Internet via mobile devices. This has looming implications for ecommerce merchants who must decide what platforms their customers will use in the future. Third party services can help owners migrate their sites to mobile devices and one of those is Mobile Site Optimizer from Covario, the SEO software and services company. Its creator is, Practical eCommerce’s long-time SEO contributor. He joins us to discuss Mobile Site Optimizer and mobile strategy generally.

Practical eCommerce: What is Mobile Site Optimizer?

Stephan Spencer: “It’s a new product from Covario. Its history comes from Netconcepts, which is my previous company that I founded and Covario acquired in January 2010.

“Mobile Site Optimizer transforms a website into a mobile optimized, mobile friendly version that is a very efficient and pleasant experience on an iPhone, on a Blackberry, and on various handheld devices, without having to create a whole new version of your site. It goes through a proxy server to create mobile optimized pages on the fly. Basically, it’s just plug-and-play to get a mobile site up with almost no effort.”

PeC: Does it work for almost any platform?

Spencer: “Yes, it’s platform agnostic. It’s actually based on a technology that I invented some years ago, originally called Gravity Stream, and now re-branded as Organic Search Optimizer, another Covario product. It actually transforms a website into a search engine-optimized version when you don’t have the IT resources or the ability to go in your native website and do major invasive surgery. The same technology that allows us to do a real time transformation of an unfriendly webpage to a search engine-optimized webpage is what we used to create the mobile-optimized versions.”

PeC: Would a merchant who wants to use the Mobile Site Optimizer have to change to a different hosting environment?

Spencer: “No. You don’t have to change to a different hosting environment.”

PeC: Are you able to say how much Mobile Content Optimizer costs?

Spencer: “No. I learned a long time ago to let the sales team handle pricing. But readers can find more information on Mobile Site Optimizer on our website.”

PeC: What would you say is the future of mobile commerce, generally?

Spencer: “I think there are a lot of moving parts here. There is the iPad coming out, which I think is going to be a transformational event. I really believe that that’s going to have a large impact on mobile, because once you have a larger device that is still very easy to use, but more portable than a laptop, then people are going to opt to work on that device more than they normally would because it is nearly as efficient as working on a laptop or on a desktop machine.
So, I think there will be a lot of devices that will sure compete with the iPad head on.

“Also, devices are just getting so much more sophisticated. Everybody is doing multi-touch screens and keyboards are getting easier and easier to use so you can type faster and faster. So, I think that adoption is coming and it’s already starting, but it’s going to be much greater.”

PeC: For a smaller merchant, what is your suggestion for a mobile strategy?

Spencer: “Actually creating an iPhone app is not necessarily cost prohibitive. It takes a lot of creativity to find someone to do that work relatively cheap, but there are plenty of iPhone app developers and Facebook app developers to be found working in India, Pakistan, or the Ukraine. They are reasonably priced and if they’ve got great ratings, you could actually develop an app relatively cost-effectively.

“That’s not to say that everybody should run out and build iPhone apps or apps for their Blackberries. You need to really ask yourself critically ‘Is this something that adds a lot of value, the fact that it’s an app instead of just being on a URL available on a mobile browser?’ If you really aren’t providing that much extra value, then it’s just as useful as what’s on the mobile website. I think it’s a stretch to expect your customers or prospects to download an iPhone or Blackberry app because there’s only so many apps that you want to have installed on your device.”

PeC: Anything else on your mind for our readers today?

Spencer: “Everybody is talking about the iPhone, but in actuality, I think the Blackberry provides a real opportunity as a platform to look at developing apps; and, of course, you want to have your mobile site optimized for the Blackberry because there are a lot of Blackberry users out there. It’s a very popular platform and yet there are not very many comparison apps for the Blackberry, so I think there’s more of a window of opportunity if you create a really excellent application for a Blackberry.”

PEC Staff
PEC Staff
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