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TechnologyJan 22, 2010

mCommerce – It’s time to go mobile with eCommerce

Matt Allen

From eCommerce to mCommerce – Is it time to go mobile?

Like most businesses, you have a website. Even better, it seems to be working ok. Your site attracts a descent number of new visitors. Perhaps sales even increased after your last release. Is your website doing all it can, or is your web presence just the launch pad for a new way to drive sales and retain customers? Is it time to go mobile?

Before we go on, I need to make a clarification. When I refer to website, I mean a website designed without a thought to viewing it on a mobile device. A mobile solution would include a mobile website, a mobile application, or any combination thereof.

Customer needs

First, we need to examine what customer needs would be met by a mobile presence. We should look at the following five categories:

  • Social interaction – Is there a desire for interpersonal contact or communal input in the process? Is the transaction one that does not require or benefit from social interaction?

  • Geographic scope – Does the user need information beyond his or her immediate location. Does he or she need data that are more global?

  • Level of customization – Can you or the user benefit by allowing the user to customize his or her interaction with the application? Is a standard application without customization appropriate?

  • Use of information – Is the user gathering information, as in research? Is there a desire to contribute and share information as well?

  • Availability – Is there a need to access this process when an internet connection is not available or when the user is not in a fixed location?

Methodology

We can now use the following framework to help determine whether a mobile presence is appropriate.

A lower score indicates that a mobile presence could be the way to go.

Examples

A couple of examples best illustrates the usage of this methodology. First, let us look at a case where a website would be most appropriate. A research firm would be a good example. This company gathers data, analyzes it, and publishes results for its customers. A web presence advertises its services, generates prospects, and provides a distribution method for final reports. Sally, a customer of this firm, would not necessarily benefit from social interaction with others during this transaction. She does not need her friends’ input while she is researching the company or downloading a report. Neither does Sally benefit by having the transaction tailored to her location. It does not matter if she is at work or at home. Beyond a basic shopping cart, she does not require any personal settings that must follow her and that must be stored on the device used to access the website. Sally is gathering information. She might share it; she will, more likely, analyze it and use it in a different form (think marketing plan, or something like that). Finally, Sally does not need this anytime/anywhere. Granted, we could sit down and brainstorm some neat features that would make a mobile presence seem like a logical next step. In reality, though, would those feature lead to higher hit-to-sale conversions? Would they increase customer retention? Would you get the ROI you would need for them?

Now, let us examine a case where a mobile application might be more appropriate. A retail business is a good example. Now imagine that Sally needs to go shopping. She has a list of people for whom she needs to buy gifts. Imagine that Sally’s mobile device has an application that functions as a wish list. She would build this wish list as she talks to her friends, as she shops with them, or as she comes up with ideas for them. Sally would compile this list over time, storing it on her mobile device. Then, when Sally is ready to shop, she could connect this wish list with a store’s website to automatically shop for her. It could return a list of suggested items. Sally could use this application to order from the website. If she does not have time to wait for delivery or the budget to rush the delivery, Sally could search the company’s store list to see the closest location to her with the item(s) she needs. She could even put them on hold at the store to ensure they are ready when she arrives. This application on her mobile device would track her preferences, her shopping habits and lists, and other data points important to the company who owns the application. The application would then send the data to the company, which would use it to refine further sales promotions, business strategy, etc. For her trouble, Sally could receive rebates, coupons, or special offers for items the company would like her to buy. The possibilities are limitless.

Summary

When assessing the criteria for the methodology above, it is crucial to keep the perspective of the end user in mind. Market research is critical. We could develop the best mobile solution the world has ever seen, but if the end users do not own mobile devices, it would be a failure.

So, is your web presence enough, or is it time to go mobile? Here is a tool to help decide.