Seven Steps to mCommerce Success
Everywhere you look, the stats all tell the same story – consumers are turning to their mobile phones to research and buy goods and services on the move. Many brands have already tapped into this growing trend, and are reaping the benefits. For those yet to do so, how can you maximize your chances of success. We have put together a seven point guide, based on our 12 years’ experience working with global, Fortune 500 brands.
App or browser? Start browser-based for the largest possible market penetration for your mobile shop
One of the first questions you will need to address when developing a mobile strategy is the native application versus browser-based shop solution. So which is best? According to March 2012 research from Nielsen, the latest user trends suggest that browser-based mobile shop solutions are the preferred method over native applications.
Strategically speaking, there are many reasons why the mobile web wins out. With a web-based shop, you can have complete coverage of smartphone users with any operating system, without having to develop for each individual platform. (Doing this is generally very costly and above all not highly scalable). A further advantage lies in the fact that a mobile shop is easier to maintain and can be continuously developed. Regular release cycles, A/B testing and updates are efficiently and flexibly implemented on a browser-based solution, in contrast to that of specific operating system development work.
If you are set on a native application, however, it makes sense to focus on a specific target group, using innovative features that set you apart from the competition (e.g. barcode scanning for further product info or a direct link to order). However, a browser-based shop should always be the initial step in your mobile strategy.
Think multichannel - incorporate your mobile activities into an integrated digital strategy
Throughout the development of mobile services, the needs, usage situation and user journey of your customers should be the main focus. In order to exploit the full potential of mobile, all sales channels and customer contact points must be connected and seen holistically. The digital and mobile customer of today is a multichannel one, who often switches between channels before he/she makes a decision to buy.
In your overall considerations, pay particular attention to the ROPO- (Research Online/Purchase Offline) effect. It’s not uncommon for a customer to browse the mobile internet during short interludes (e.g. at the bus stop) for information about a product, and then subsequently buy in store. In order to optimally represent the aforementioned usage situations, consider all relevant departments in the development of a holistic strategy. Only in this way will you be able to create a universal and successful shopping experience for the customer.
Keep it simple – pay attention to mobile usability
Surfing the mobile web cannot be compared with surfing the internet on a fixed PC. A particularly crucial criteria for the development of a mobile shop is usability. The mobile user is in a unique situation, ‘on the move’. Processes must therefore be easily and intuitively operated, avoiding unnecessary steps. For example, product search, check-out and design must be both simple and attractive. Despite the limited design capabilities on mobile devices, the mobile shop should display the same product range as available on the web. It is important to integrate intelligent, resilient search functions, as well as effective product filters, in order to counteract any mobile usability issues and enable fast, efficient searching.
Performance matters – minimise load times
On mobile, every second counts. Depending on the handset model and connection quality, mobile devices have different processing capabilities. Therefore, avoid overloaded pages, as a slow data connection leads to elongated additional waiting time.
Long load times cause consumers to become impatient and may result in them clicking away. Server side optimization such as scaling images helps to reduce data transfer. Focus on technologies and concepts that don’t deliver unnecessary content.
For an optimal user experience, performance and accessibility must accompany a positive shopping experience. With these components you can fully exploit your sales potential using the mobile channel.
Mobile payment - use an established payment process from a trusted provider
Win your customers’ trust and remove the barriers to using a mobile device for transactions. Do so by relying on a payment service provider with a proven track record, such as Paypal. Ensure that the service provider offers a mobile-optimized check-out process. Irritation on the part of the user is often caused because they are redirected to a desktop site, which should be avoided. As an alternative, you can add additional options such as completing purchase on a fixed PC at a later point. Prevent extra steps that lengthen the payment process and don’t make registration mandatory for completing a transaction.
Universal Domain - lead all mobile customers to one mobile store
How do mobile users get to your store? Mobile commerce is driven primarily via Google search. Search drives many customers to the mobile shopping store, as they are often looking for a particular product. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that customers are automatically redirected to your mobile store. This also needs to take into account deep links, so that search results for concrete products on mobile devices lead the user to a mobile site. Additionally, the option to switch to the classic desktop site should be offered.
Prepare for multi-device - focus on future-proofed and flexible technologies
Focus on flexible technical infrastructure solutions, which meet current and future requirements, in order to avoid overflowing costs for updates. These can arise as a result of the constant development and diversification of the mobile market. Alongside today’s fragmentation of mobile operating systems (iOS, Android, RIM, Windows etc.), the variety of devices with various features and capabilities will also bring about new challenges.
Your focus should be on a future orientated solution that makes it possible to cover your complete target group and all web-enabled devices such as smartphones, tablet PCs, TV devices and digital POS systems. Confirm that all information sources and backend infrastructure can be connected. Only through an integrated back-end system for diverse mobile channels can you create a future-proof, cost-efficient foundation that will allow you to exploit the full potential of mobile commerce. Using this as a basis, further innovative and profit-enhancing mobile services can be developed, and you can be well prepared for the future of mobile commerce.
Thomas Laband is joint UK managing director of Sevenval