If there are still lingering doubts about the role mobile devices will play in the retail environment, this holiday season will likely put them to rest. Mobile Web platform provider Usablenet, which launched eight new mobile commerce sites in the last two months, which is comparable to the number of mobile site launched over a full year.“
All of these retailers have discovered this year that mobile Web is a significant portion of their potential traffic of their regular Web site,” said Jason Taylor, VP of Mobile Products at Usablenet. “[Consumers] don’t really distinguish a difference between the Web on their phone and the Web on their computer, so they want to go to the Web site and have a successful experience regardless of what mobile phone they’re using.” Taylor points to the iPhone as a driving force behind the growing population of Web browsing via mobile phones.
Mobile commerce adoption may have reached a tipping point in Q4, as Usablenet launched mobile sites for eight new retailers, including:
- Office Max
- Dooney & Bourke
- Crate & Barrel
- Sunglass Hut
Throughout 2009, Usablenet has observed a significant increase in mobile Web usage across its mobile sites. Comparing November 2008 with November 2009 traffic data, Usablenet saw a 390.31% growth in visitors and a 207.58% growth in page views across its top 20 mobile sites. Usablenet also noted an increase in traffic to both retail and business travel sectors, with a 400% hike in visitors.
The Office Max site has a click-to-call functionality designed to connect consumers with customer service representatives, in addition to a store locator function. The mobile site is designed to enable consumers to browse and buy products like paper, technology, ink, toners and office furniture. The site also showcases weekly ads. Staying true to the key components of a traditionally e-commerce site, customers can log-in to their accounts, view their previous and present orders and see their shopping carts on the mobile site.
Home furnishings brand Crate and Barrel launched two mobile sites, for crateandbarrel.com and cb2.com. Supported on any mobile device, the sites are designed to enable customers to browse and purchase Crate and Barrel and CB2’s complete catalogue of products from anywhere.
The new mobile sites are designed to offer the same e-commerce shopping experience available on the Web site, including product search/browsing, shopping cart, checkout and order tracking. Customers can also manage wedding and gift registries, favorite lists, and access product ratings, reviews and check in-store availability, all on their mobile phone.
“Our goal at Crate and Barrel is to create a simple, streamlined mobile experience that is uniquely branded and consistent with our Web sites,” said Dave Widmer, Senior Manager of Internet at Crate and Barrel and CB2. “We strive to continually support our customers wherever they are – and increasingly, they are mobile.”
Handbag and accessories retailer Dooney & Bourke launched their new mobile site on December 2, offering consumers the ability to browse and buy right via mobile phone. “The Dooney & Bourke woman is constantly on-the-go and appreciates having information at her fingertips,” Dooney & Bourke Head of Advertising Liz Kane told Retail Monthly. “It was only natural that we provide her access to her favorite accessories in the palm of her hand.”
Although the launches are cohesive to adapting to consumers’ wants and needs, mobile commerce is more of a strategic effort for retailers. “Retailers want to be in their competitors’ stores to see if people are doing price comparisons and availability,” Taylor said. “It allows them to be around whenever consumers want to find out what deals are available…It’s an extension of the shopping experience, not just in the way the Web is, which is a replacement to going in the store. Mobile can be a replacement to going to the store, but it can also be an enhancement to being in the store.”
Taylor said Usablenet has developed new sharing tools that bring the power of social networks directly to the mobile phone. “In the same way that consumers can share on the Web, we’ve built these features to add to Twitter, Facebook and email to a friend,” he said. “Sharing is a very important aspect of the mobile space, because retailers want to allow people to share items with other people and supporting things like ‘add to my mobile Facebook’ is important.” Taylor said this is significant for retailers because consumers can find and share deals quickly and efficiently by using the mobile phone.