Embracing Mobile Commerce in 2011

The following is a guest post James Bentham on behalf of Mobile Interactive Group.

With the majority of large retailers in the UK choosing to capitalise on the mobile commerce channel, those who have been left behind are now scrabbling to catch up. Still in its relative infancy, mCommerce has developed quickly throughout 2011 and shows no signs of slowing. The brands who have benefitted most were the ones not afraid to innovate and take some risks.

Amazon and eBay both set up strong mobile presences during 2010 and both have seen huge returns, forging a path for other brands to follow. Amazon optimised their site for mobile phones as well as offering apps for the iPhone and Android operating systems in various territories. They were one of the first to introduce cross platform accounts, with users able to add products to their basket via their mobile phone and then purchase them next time they log in on a computer. eBay’s app enabled both buying and selling processes to take place via a mobile and, via a highly effective user interface, made the application a pleasure to use. This produced some massive sales through their mobile channel, including that of a Lamborghini for $350,000 and a yacht for £150,000.

So what has brought about this necessity for retailers to move into mobile commerce? comScore research states that 10% of women and 17.9% of men in the age group 13 to 44 have attempted to access an online retailer via their mobile. Another survey from YouGov revealed that 25% of consumers said that if they couldn’t access a retailer’s site on their mobile, they would go to a competitor and not try to access that site again.

mCommerce is forecast to grow to over $100bn per annum by 2015, particularly in the UK and Europe which appears to be catching and will likely overtake the US in terms of usage. Mobile transactions are predicted to have jumped from $170 billion in 2010 to $630 billion by 2014. There are plenty of other indicators to indicate now is the time for retailers to go mobile too. Ocado now receives 5% of its orders through its mobile app and US Pizza Hut generated more than $1m just from its first 3 months.

Now mobile commerce has fledged, it is important for any retailer to ensure they have a website that is optimised for mobiles, but not at the expense of application development. The main stumbling block for retailers is getting their eCommerce system properly integrated with their front end mobile app or site. In order to provide the best customer experience, more brands are opting for complete systems that deliver APIs for their products, account managements and dealing with transactions.

The act of downloading an app in itself is a positive movement by the customer to interact with a brand and is worth much more than simply bookmarking a mobile site. Once downloaded, the app becomes a feature of the users mobile and they will be much more likely to return and browse on a regular basis, particularly if the user interface has been uniquely designed.

This aspect of mCommerce is continually changing and new web standards in HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript are allowing more creative options for designing interfaces and a more exciting user experience. These developments, coupled with the explosion of touch screen smart phones throughout 2011, have brought with them features including drag and drop, inline video, 360oproduct view as well as live data entry validation.

Going forward, eBay has just released information about a new mobile photo feature, where users can take pictures of products they like the look of and the app will suggest similar products available on the site. Innovations such as this are revolutionising the way people shop and unifying in store, online and mobile retailing experiences.