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As consumer confidence in mobile grows, so does mobile-originating traffic to retail Web sites. In fact, according to a June 2014 comScore report, fully 60 percent of digital media time spent online by consumers is originating from smartphones and tablets, a figure that has increased 50 percent over 2013.

In February of this year, an inMobi study showed that only 11 percent of consumers report accessing the Web mostly from a computer. A recent index of 350-plus retailers saw a same-store year-over-year increase in mobile commerce revenue of 102 percent.

Any online retailer that does not yet have a mobile commerce site is now way behind the curve and is potentially losing money every day.

Mobile commerce is hotter than a five-dollar pistol and offers some tremendous opportunities for retailers who are ready to take advantage. But pitfalls also exist.

Here are five things that online retailers should not do this holiday season if they want to take maximum advantage of the mobile revolution that is transforming the retail landscape.

1. Do not treat mobile as a shrunken version of your main site
While it might be fine for a tablet, serving a resized version of your main site to your smartphone traffic can kill conversion rates and disappoint your customers.

Responsive design has been pitched as a way to display your main site on any screen, but cramming large images and content into the mobile context slows page-load speeds to a crawl, hurts conversions and causes bounce rates to surge.

Responsive design might work fine for content sites, but retailers should not expect a shrink-to-fit approach to satisfy an increasingly savvy mobile consumer base.

Internet Retailer reported in June that, among 12 top-tier responsive mobile sites, the average page-load time was more than 18 seconds.

From the article, “A one-second delay in Web site page load time translates into a 7 percent loss in conversions, according to research firm Aberdeen Group Inc. So if an e-retailer makes $100,000 a day from its mobile site, a one-second page delay could mean around $2.5 million in lost sales every year. If that’s the case, what does an 18-second page load time mean?”

Adopting a mobile-first methodology means you end up dumbing down your ecommerce site to ensure that pages display fast and well. Throwing out the ecommerce baby with the mobile bathwater is not the answer.

Smart retailers see mobile as just what it is: a separate channel with separate use case scenarios that should be treated as such.

Unshackling your mobile site from your ecommerce site pays off with big dividends, in direct proportion to the size of your mobile audience.

2. Do not over-deliver to your mobile homepage
Why would you deliver all your traffic to the same page universally when that traffic might very well be originating from a link that is very product-specific?

Deep-linking is a must these days, and allows smart retailers to sharpen the path to purchase and reduce friction.

While deep-linking a tweet, Facebook post or even a scanned physical QR code to a product detail page and tracking everything is a great first step, mobile landing pages are an even better approach.

Large brands are using branded, custom-designed mobile landing pages to immerse consumes who are pre-qualified to be interested in a certain item. These pages feature omnipresent “Buy Now” buttons to capture the intent to buy without making the consumer scroll and click all over to purchase the item.

If well designed with an easy path to purchase, mobile landing pages can deliver conversion rates many times the rates associated with normal mobile site traffic, since they deliver the consumer to the sweet spot of the mobile commerce site.

3. Do not set it and forget it
Simply having a mobile commerce site is not good enough. It is the bare minimum ante. Retailers should always be iterating and tweaking and even fully re-designing mobile commerce sites on a periodic basis to take maximum advantage of this new sales medium.

Again, mobile is not the same as ecommerce and different things work for different reasons.

Evaluating analytics to identify a mobile commerce site’s top five friction points and fixing them is a great first step.

Often a pop-up email modal or some other gimmick that works well on the ecommerce site will cause mobile consumers to instantly abandon the site. This is another reason why responsive sites tend to under-perform.
Mobile is different and it should not be assumed that what works on your main site works on mobile.

Test, iterate, re-test and refine the mobile experience to ensure you are always increasing your conversion rate and decreasing your bounce rate.

Do not be afraid to embark on a site redesign.

4. Do not ignore mobile wallets
While most press these days is around in-store mobile payments (think Apple Pay), remember that mobile wallets can also serve as friction-reducing tools for mobile commerce sites, allowing a customer’s address and payment information to be auto-filled in.

The checkout process can be a bit tedious on a smartphone, and tools such as Google Wallet and PayPal Mobile Express Checkout allow a customer to pour in their payment information and ship-to address in a single click. The upside of adding this feature can be very significant.

Rockport was the first online retailer to use Google Wallet for its mobile site and has since reported that nine out of 10 consumers who start the checkout process with Google Wallet continue through the process and checkout. When you compare this to an industry average for converted purchases, the upside is beyond obvious.

In 2013, a study by Jumio reported that $15.9 billion in mobile commerce sales were left on the table for that year due to a 97 percent average cart abandonment rate for mobile.

Sure, things are busy and it takes time to add any new feature, but something that can significantly boost your conversion rate usually comes with a rapid ROI and is well-worth doing.

5. Do not forget your physical stores
Smartphones are in people’s hands and are always on. Too often, the commerce team that handles the mobile site and the marketing teams that handle the in-store experience and display are siloed off from one another. These teams should be meeting, talking and finding ways to use in-store mobile engagement to further both their missions.

Consumers in a store are highly pre-qualified to be interested in your products. Mobile engagement can mean the difference between knowing nothing about your store visitors and adding them to your customer logs.

QR codes, NFC and SMS can all be used to deliver a link to an interested consumer that can trigger the launch of a page custom-designed to receive this traffic.

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This article was the lead story in Mobile Commerce Daily on October 24, 2014. Wilson Kerr is vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Boston. Reach him at wilson@unboundcommerce.com.

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Mobile Marketer Senior Editor Giselle Tsirulnik recently interviewed me, regarding the role that SMS can play in mobile commerce. I am re-posting this interview and expanding some of my answers.

I hope this post gives retailers and brands insights into ways that “Trigger Point Marketing ™” like SMS can be used to link tracked mobile commerce sales with the social sharing of the specifics of  a product or price, by customers. When consumers share the news about something they recently bought among their social network, the effect can be powerful, as long as retailers can track the resulting lift via mobile commerce transactions.

Here is an extended version of what I said:

Q: What is the benefit (for a brand or retailer) of having a consumer SMS/MMS a product they are viewing via a mobile commerce site,  to a friend?

A: This sort of social sharing means the retailer or brand has a new touchpoint delivered instantly to a highly prequalified audience. Since the text arrives from a trusted friend, the person who receives it is very likely to open the text, read it, and click on the link. It stands to reason that the conversion rates for the recipient of the SMS would be many times higher than traditional marketing blasts.

By providing the tools needed for consumers to repackage and redeliver a marketing message to a highly prequalified audience within their own social graph, retailers can tap into a very potent mixture of personal referrals and siphon off additional mobile commerce sales.

Q: How could this potentially drive sales for a retailer?

A: Smart retailers are increasingly offering their customers tools whereby they can share the deal they just got. Word of mouth and personal referrals consistently ranks amongst the highest-ranked reasons consumers visit a store or retail website. If the retailer has a mobile-optimized site, an SMS sent by a customer can serve as a delivery mechanism for a deep link right into the section of the mobile commerce site where the exact product that was purchased (or product grouping) is queued up and ready to buy for the text recipient. This can directly, positively impact mobile commerce sales and, more importantly, can be tracked, measured and even used as a way to reward consumers who have spread the word.

Q: Do you think more retailers will be incorporating SMS into their mobile sites in 2012?

A: Yes, retailers interested in stay relevant will utilize a variety of new ways to have hyperlinked touchpoints spread by pleased, loyal consumers.  In a few clicks, the recipient of the text message can buy the item their friend bought and also have the opportunity to pass the word along. By adding this option pre or post-purchase, retailers can infuse their mobile commerce sites with

As SMS starts to replace email with younger generations and more and more retailers build and launch mobile commerce retail sites, this method of “Trigger Point Marketing(tm)” is a great way to drive tracked ROI. SMS is alive and well and retailers should certainly add it to their marketing mix, in support of mcommerce.

Q: Why is SMS a good medium to encourage sharing?

A: An SMS text message is instant and it is personal and it generally comes from a known, trusted sender. For these reasons, a whopping 98% of all text messages sent are opened by the recipient. No other form of digital marketing even comes close.

SMS also opens up a new channel of communication between the retailer and the consumer and builds a retailers database of contacts, since the mobile commerce platform captures the mobile phone numbers of both the sender and the recipient.

Q: What are some other ways SMS can be incorporated into a mobile commerce site?

A: When integrated into a mobile commerce site as a “social share feature”, SMS can also be tapped to distribute pre- and post-purchase links to a product in a mobile commerce site, within the social graph of the purchaser

SMS can also be used, via short codes, to drive traffic to a mcommerce site, when a hot link is sent back to the consumer, by the retailer. Additionally, SMS can be used to sign up customers to loyalty programs or allow them to opt-in for announcements of new arrivals, etc. If a shopping cart is abandoned, SMS can be used to ping the customer who did not complete their transaction, to remind them that their cart is full and they forgot to check out.

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The Final Word: Mobile commerce is no longer an option for retailers and brands that sell consumer direct. Retailers that do not have an integrated mcommerce site are losing sales every minute, literally.

The linkage between proven, incremental sales and mobile marketing has long been elusive. This fact has kept a barrier up between the ecommerce team and the marketing dept. This is finally changing and the fact that socially driven messaging can be infused with deep links within a mobile commerce page means that these two worlds are finally set to merge. When this happens, marketing will be able to see a quantifiable return on their spend and the ecommerce team will have a whole new revenue stream via mobile commerce that is, in turn, supported by mobile marketing. A win-win. Remember, SMS is but one method, and QR codes and Near Field Communication (NFC) are also viable ways to drive proven, new mobile sales via”Trigger Point Marketing ™”.

The silos between marketing and ecommerce must be demolished. The retailers and brands that realize this and embrace this notion fastest will win. The rest will be left behind.

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Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is a former Tele Atlas exec, LBS consultant, and now leads Sales and Business Development for  Unbound Commerce.

Contact Wilson today to learn more. Mobile: 303-249-2083.

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Sometime this year, 50% of Americans will own a web-connected smartphone, yet less than 20% of online retailers have websites optimized and formatted to serve these mobile consumers.

I am calling this the “mobile commerce gap”. The reason for this inequity between demand and supply, in my opinion, is because the internal resources required for online retailers to properly develop a mobile commerce site have been pulled in other directions, even as smartphone adoption rates have exploded. As a result, a majority of online retailers are offering their mobile customers a very poor online shopping experience. This, in turn, results in poor conversion rates and missed sales, not to mention the fact that consumers are left with the general impression that the retail brand is not serving their needs.

Think about it, how many times have you visited a site on your smartphone and immediately left when you saw it was not optimized for mobile? According to Google, this happens 79% of the time!


Why this “gap”? The first distraction came in 2009 when retailers and brands alike were told they must “drop everything and build  an iPhone app”. While apps are great for some things, a vast array of surveys and studies have concluded that consumers much-prefer a mobile site over an app for commerce. The second was the social media craze of last year, as Facebook, Twitter, and the rest dominated headlines and became “must-haves”. Both soaked up internal IT resources and distracted online retailers from building the mobile-optimized sites needed to serve their increasingly-mobile customers.

So, what are the factors online retailers should consider, as they investigate offering their customers the ability to convert sales from their mobile devices via a mobile commerce site? I hope the following 5 points will clear some things up:

1) There is No “Mobile Web”

While it is true that most “standard” websites are capable of being viewed on a web-enabled phone, few consumers are willing to “pinch and zoom” their way into a converted sale on a standard site jammed into a small screen. Ever tried this? It’s not fun.

While the need for mobile-optimized sites might seem obvious, many retailers justify not investing in mobile commerce by citing low mobile-originating traffic to their  current site (usually 2-5%).  Of course, this low-traffic negative feedback loop is caused by the fact that mobile customers seldom return to a site after being greeted with such a poor user experience. The retailer then concludes there is no need to invest in the “mobile web”. Again, there is no “mobile web”.  There is only the web viewed on a mobile device.

2) Mobile Commerce is NOT Mobile Payments

There is a lot of “noise” right now regarding mobile payments at point of sale, when the phone is used as a “mobile wallet” to pay for coffee and the like. While mobile payments might-well emerge as an issue retailers need to address, this  is not the same as mobile commerce. Mobile payments involve banks, credit cards, investments in point of sale infrastructure, coupons, NFC,  loyalty cards, and a whole array of complex issues.

Mobile  commerce is simply the act of ordering something online, from your mobile phone, via a mobile-optimized version of a website. Retailers should not confuse the two, or delay the launch of a mobile commerce site while trying to understand mobile payment options and what uniform technology may or may not emerge victorious.

3) Mobile Commerce “Actualizes” Mobile Marketing

Remember, every time a consumer clicks on a marketing or advertising link to your website on their mobile phone, they should land on a site that is optimized for the device they are accessing that message on.  Whether a tweet, a Facebook post, a banner ad, a QR code, an SMS message, or an email,  the mobile consumer who acts upon the message should be able to convert that action easily into a sale, via a mobile commerce site. If you are a retailer and do not have a mobile commerce site and are spending money on social media marketing or mobile advertising, you are likely paying to promote links to a very poor customer experience.

4) Integrate, Don’t Duplicate

There are several options for creating a mobile commerce site. You could use a transcoder to “screen scrape” your standard website and shrink it to fit a mobile screen. You could “sub-out” your mobile commerce efforts to a third party, by letting them “handle it” with their own separate and duplicative mobile store. OR you could leverage and extend your current, proven and trusted  e-commerce operations into mobile via an integrated solution. This is a superior approach, in my opinion, as it means you are avoiding duplication, while also maintaining full in-house control and fueling mobile commerce from the same infrastructure you trust today for your e-commerce operations.  A software-based integration approach takes a bit more effort on the front-side, but the long-term benefits are significant, as this single effort, if done properly, can serve as the foundation for not only mobile commerce, but also Facebook  commerce and commerce-enabled iPhone and Android apps, as needed.

5) Devote IT Resources, Plan For Growth

The single biggest reason I hear retailers give for not moving on mobile commerce is a lack of IT resources. Simply put, this is a poor excuse. While it may be true that IT is backed up, the measurable, tracked ROI that mobile commerce offers should elevate this to the top of the list. The ROI is extremely rapid, by even the most conservative estimates of the resulting tracked, incremental mobile commerce sales. Retailers and brands that are out ahead of the curve will be the biggest winners, as long as they plan for growth and chose the right approach.


Compelling Numbers

Still not convinced that mobile commerce is a “must have”? In recent weeks Google and other mobile marketing players have begun encouraging retailers to sit up and take notice of this “gap”, since they can’t sell online retailers mobile marketing campaigns if they have no place for the target audience to “land” when they click though a mobile campaign ad/link.

Google and others are pointing to studies and reports that contain numbers that are hard to ignore. Here is a sampling:

  • $1.9 Billion: Worldwide online mobile sales in 2009.
  • $23.8 Billion: Expected worldwide online mobile sales in 2015.
  • 61%: The percentage of mobile users unlikely to return to a site not optimized for mobile.
  • 79%: The percentage of Google retailer advertisers who DO NOT have a mobile site.
  • 78%: The percentage of consumers who prefer a mobile site over an app.
  • 62%: The percentage of smartphone owners who have purchased physical goods via their phone in the last 6 months.
  • 2-5%: The typical percentage of mobile traffic coming to a non-optimized retail website.
  • 5X: The typical increase in conversion rates, upon the launch of a mobile commerce site.
(Adobe-Mobile Shopper Insights, Google, eMarketer, Shop.org, Coda Research, Unbound Commerce)

Want even more evidence? I recently attended the Mobile Commerce Summit in NYC and the Keynote speaker was Steve Yankovich, VP of eBay Mobile. eBay has quietly become the largest online retailer in the world and were an early adopter of mobile commerce.

The numbers Steve shared regarding their mobile commerce success at the conference were astounding. Some highlights:

  • $4 Billion: The revenue eBay expects to generate from mobile commerce in 2011, double what they sold on mobile in 2010.
  • 100%: The percentage of eBay’s m-commerce sales they report as being incremental!
  • 38 Seconds: The average time someone spends on eBay for a m-commerce transaction (versus 20+ minutes on their standard site).
  • 100: The number of people eBay reports hiring for their mobile commerce team.
  • 50X: The predicted increase in what eBay will spend on mobile marketing to support the success they have seen in m-commerce.

We are finally at a point where the numbers are so compelling that few can argue against the importance of having a mobile commerce site. The simplest way to put this is, “If you do not have a mobile-optimized commerce site, you are losing money“.

The Time Is Now

Your customers are mobile and they are very likely trying to access your site on their smartphones right now. If they still see your “standard” e-commerce site crammed onto a small screen, you are delivering a poor customer experience and, as such, are missing incremental mobile sales. Try it yourself!

Some experts expect mobile commerce to grow to become as much as 10-15% of online sales. Retailers should weigh the risks of launching a solution that is not integrated with their current operations, since what might not be a problem at first could emerge as a big issue when mobile commerce makes up a significant percentage of online sales. Find the resources, take the time, and consider building/launching a mobile site ASAP that leverages and extends current online sales operations.

You will provide consumers a positive mobile interaction with your brand that also drives significant incremental, tracked revenue. Mobile commerce is here and the time to take advantage via a mobile commerce site is now!

__________________

Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is a former Tele Atlas exec, LBS consultant, and now leads Sales and Business Development for  Unbound Commerce.

Contact him today to learn more. Mobile: 303-249-2083.

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