Making the Move to Mobile Commerce

October 4, 2010 by  
Filed under Mobile Commerce

mobile-commerceWith all the talk of iPhones, apps, Blackberry’s and like minded ‘smart devices’, at some point (if you haven’t already) you need to consider when it is right to make the jump to mobile commerce. These technologies are more prevalent than ever before, and the rate of use is growing with what seems like every passing hour. Add to that the fact that mobile shopping is expected to approach $2 billion in 2010 — and top $119 billion by 2015 — and you have the makings of something that can add substantial revenue to your bottom line in the near future.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos stated that in the past year, the company sold more than $1 billion in products to customers who shopped for those items using a mobile device. That’s a lot of cash from a trend that is rapidly increasing across the globe. Mobile commerce is here and it’s not only for the big guys. Small business owners should pay attention to this trend and get ready to take advantage of it at the earliest opportunity.

Think mobile commerce isn’t for you? Think again.

You might not think that mobile commerce fits your market or customer … but before you jump to that conclusion consider this.

A recent article that appeared in Small Business Computing stated that even “farmers and ranchers need to order from their mobile phones too, and being able to do it using a browser is a plus. When a plow or a tractor breaks down in the middle of a field and needs a part, wasted time is wasted money.”

If that doesn’t make you stop and reconsider where mobile commerce could fit into your business, I’m not sure what will. So, before you write off a mobile version of your store as not worth it, do your homework first.

When is it right to make a ‘mobile version’ of your store?

Well that answer can depend on a lot of variables including customer demographics, budget, and cart engine technology to name a few.

The biggest hurdle for many stores is going to be getting a ‘mobile version’ of their store built (and this could be a costly conversion process depending on what you want to end up with.) With the exception of custom built ecommerce platforms, the majority of ecommerce engines out there simply do not have the ability to easily convert to mobile (yet.) Yes, you can view the sites over a mobile device, but they do not ‘work’ as a true mobile application or site should.

Without a mobile ready version of your store, the ability to turn visitors into sales is hindered due to what often comes down to poor usability. Reading is made difficult, navigation is unbearable and often impossible, and that is just the beginning.

There are a number of so called ‘mobile conversion’ scripts available for sites, but none address the issues a fully dynamic store presents. Most take a current site and render a ‘static’ mobile version of it. This is no good for stores that are constantly changing pricing, promotions, adding new products, keeping inventory etc…

If you want to see what a very basic mobile version of your store might look like if you were to go that route (and I say might because this simply removes all styling and images … not very ‘pretty’ for the sophisticated smart phones of today, but it would do the trick), Google provides a conversion utility that’s as simple as it gets. Enter the URL of your website; check the option for ‘No Images’ if you do not want images to appear, and then click on the ‘GO’ button. Once Google renders your site, you can surf it to see what users would see if they came to it via a mobile browser (to some degree.) If you’ve got a mobile device of your own, you could of course access the site with that to view it as well.

Tracking Mobile Visitors

You can use Google Analytics to track what types of mobile devices are trying to access both your non-mobile and mobile store. Installing this type of tracking on your non-mobile site may provide you with some insight into how many visitors are actually trying to view your site via a mobile browser—and this might play a role in your determining when to address a mobile site design.

Here is a nice article on setting up filters in your current website profile from within Google Analytics. The information is a little older so some of the screens for setting up the filter changed a bit but the overall concept is the same.

Again, you can use the information gathered from this type of filter to determine an approximation of how many of your current visitors try to access your site via a mobile device. Keep in mind that this does not necessarily mean that if you had a mobile version they wouldn’t shop it, on the contrary, it may be that they know your site doesn’t render in a mobile browser very nicely and thus they choose the traditional internet route.

To add Google Analytics tracking to the mobile ready version of your site you’ll need to adjust the code a little bit. You can find this snippet and more information about it here.

When should you make the move to mobile?

There is no right or wrong answer for this. As we have seen, much of it depends on variables that are very business specific. One thing you should count on however is that mobile shopping is going to be as common as the TV. To be able to take advantage of this growing medium you need to start planning now. If you can get a mobile site in place sooner than later, great! If not, don’t worry, but do consider what it will take to move toward that.