Have you considered taking your retail store mobile?
If so, recent data would indicate that you’re on the right track. EConsultancy reports that as of January 2012, 38% of the smartphone population has now completed a purchase via a mobile device. In addition, Nielsen reported that smartphone owners became the majority among all U.S. mobile subscribers in March 2012.
So where do I start?
A mobile-optimized site with integrated commerce is going to be your best bet. While an app may seem like an attractive option, it presents an additional barrier to sales by requiring a download. In addition, apps must be developed separately for each operating system, and retail inventory can’t be optimized for search engines.
When developing a mobile commerce site, the key to success is creating a positive and enjoyable user experience. In a survey by the e-tailing group from 2011, most respondents cited an awkward experience as the reason why they didn’t shop more often on mobile.
Fortunately, there are a number of companies that have created affordable, turnkey mobile commerce platforms that will make the process easy for your company and your customers. However, before you can partner with one of them, there’s an important decision to make.
Hosted vs. Licensed
A hosted solution is delivered from the platform provider’s servers, and clients pay a monthly fee to use it. A licensed solution, on the other hand, allows companies to purchase software and host it on their servers. Small- to mid-sized businesses tend to prefer the former because, despite higher ongoing fees and fewer options for customization, the upfront cost is lower and a hosted solution is easier to manage with limited resources.
Who can help?
If you’re just starting out in mobile commerce, you’ll want to go with a hosted solution. There are tons to choose from, but you can’t go wrong with Shopify, Volusion or Ashop Commerce. The plans start as low as $19/month, with a number of tiered options to accommodate companies of varied sizes. Plus, while each has a strong mobile product offering, they’re known for their desktop solutions if you’re in need of a partner.
The Usability Blog published an excellent two-part series on best practices for m-commerce sites (part 1 and part 2). It’s an excellent read, especially if you’re not sure exactly what is needed for your site. Here are a few of their recommendations:
- Provide a prominent and persistent search feature at the top of the page
- Give users the ability to browse by category directly from the home page
- Enable users to refine their search results
If you’ve let concerns about affordability or difficulty keep you from jumping into mobile commerce, now is the time to go for it! Take a closer look at the m-commerce platforms mentioned above and see which one is most closely aligned with your needs.
About the Author: Cory Gaddis is a regular contributor to the 60 Second Marketer and helps Mobilize Worldwide create mobile marketing campaigns for a wide variety of clients.