Six Steps to mCommerce Heaven

If youre an online retailer without mobile commerce capabilities, youre missing out on sales. Smartphones have dramatically changed the shopping landscape. Millions of users are now engaging with retailers via mobile devices, and doing so more frequently – with daily mobile web access doubling every six months. In fact, according to Nielsen, traffic to mobile commerce sites and applications increased 50 per cent in the first half of 2010.

Having a mobile presence will soon be as critical as having an online presence. However, many businesses have had a panicked approach to mobile – rushing into it without realising that success hinges on the right technology. So how should you start focusing your companys mobile initiative? The most critical decision you will make is selecting the technology that will support your strategy.

Step 1: Start with a clear strategy
To avoid pitfalls, define your organisation’s mobile goals in order to guide budget, internal support, and development timelines. Is your goal to provide shoppers with a research tool to assist them through the buying process? Is it to boost customer loyalty? Add a channel to capture more sales? Are you targeting sophisticated smartphone power-users, or looking to provide a one-size-fits-all solution to reach a broader audience?

Instead of bending your goals, based on whats available today, build a mobile strategy around whats right for your business in the long term. Regardless of your specific objectives, define how mobile will play into your multichannel strategy, and how it will ultimately improve your customer experience.

Step 2: Select the right mobile environment(s)

Once you have your goals defined, understand where and how your target audience is already interacting with the mobile channel. There are two mobile environment options to choose from: sites and applications. Both have benefits, so align support based on the goals of your strategy and what your audience is likely to use.
ASccording to Forrester Research, the number of online retail mobile apps accessed has increased 91 per cent in the last year, and mobile web use for the same purpose has increased 47 per cent. Both mobile sites and apps will likely be valuable to your long-term mobile strategy, and you may choose to invest in both environments to ensure proper coverage.

Step 3: Prioritise what devices to support

The mobile device landscape is fragmented, and platform-specific user engagement will fluctuate. You should consider whether your mcommerce platform is flexible enough to support these fluctuations as needs evolve. Will it be able to easily support more devices? Be sure the technology approach you take will be able to scale to future needs.

To ensure the greatest adoption rate possible, do your research, and carefully examine where and how your target market is engaging. If your budget does not permit building out a series of device-specific apps, choose one or two of the best-fit device environments to support, and enable other users to access your mobile storefront via a mobile website.

Step 4: Decide whether to own or outsource mobile technology
Many organisations struggle with the technology decision. Will a low-cost, outsourced solution be able to support long-term growth? Will investing in a robust infrastructure cost too much upfront? Available-to-hire mobile skill sets are scarce, which is why the vast majority of organisations have engaged a provider.

Take the time to understand the trade-offs to the different deployment options available on the market. While outsourcing may defray much of the cost and resource investments upfront, allowing you to test the mobile environment with less risk, it may not meet your needs over time. As you start to understand your mobile market, demand grows and you will seek to have more control over the technology.

Step 5: Discover what existing technology you can repurpose
In most cases, you should not have to make large investments in new technologies to support mobile expansion. If you have a website, your core technologies (e-commerce platform, merchandising tools, CMS, user reviews, product information) can be leveraged in the mobile channel.

Extend as much of your existing technology as possible into the mobile channel to maximise your investments and simplify management. Your mobile storefront should be as actively analysed and managed by your internal business users as your dotcom website. Integrating these tools into your mobile offering will not only maximise the value of your existing technology investments, but will also ensure greater consistency with the user experience and branding efforts across all your channels.

Step 6: Align your technology with short-term and long-term goals
Maximise your budget and get projects moving by aligning the development of mobile services with your strategy, and stage build-out accordingly. Chances are, you wont have the budget or resources to build-out your entire mobile programme upfront, and youll need quick results to secure additional funds and support in the future. Make sure youre selecting the right technology to support your specific mobile goals and long-term strategy.

If your goal is driving mobile sales, incorporating confidence-building user reviews or investing in a streamlined checkout process will prove more fruitful than barcode scanning. Rate whats most important to your strategy, adjust build-outs accordingly, and iterate based on how your customers are interacting. Keep re-evaluating, and revisit your roadmap every quarter.

Brenna Johnson works in product marketing, eBusiness at Endeca Technologies