Friday, May 29, 2009

Is Your Mobile Site Helping You Interact And Transact?

Are you still wondering what to make of mobile commerce? While you consider what to do, your competitors may have just added several more customers, thanks to their own well-conceived mobile websites.

When it comes to mobile web use, the numbers don’t lie. There are more than 40 million active monthly users of the mobile Internet in the United States — a 73% increase since 2006, according to Neilsen Mobile. The growth is even more staggering worldwide, where there are more than 600 million mobile web users, according to research firm IDC, and that number is expected to rise to 1.5 billion by 2012.

“The old adage that retailing is all about location, location, location doesn’t hold true today, especially for the modern digital consumer,” NCR industry marketing director John Saccomanno told me. “You need to connect, interact, and transact with those customers wherever they choose, whenever they want, and offer a payment method that’s most pertinent to them.”

The challenge for retailers is converting mobile web users into mobile web customers, and their experience on your mobile site is a key factor in the equation. Unfortunately, websites built for personal computers don’t translate very well to cell phones, Unity Mobile CEO Daniel West recently told me. “There’s a fundamentally different infrastructure,” he said. “What’s required is a specialized design of your website for mobile.”

There are a host of substantial problems that could affect your mobile site but not necessarily your wired one, namely slow download speeds, poor site rendering, and usability issues. Also, the differences between mobile handsets, browsers, and bandwidth capabilities all can negatively impact how your customer engages with your site. Mobile site obstacles can lead to frustration and even site abandonment for customers used to a fast, positive web experience.

Fortunately, there’s help for retailers. Companies like Unity Mobile and Tealeaf help retailers optimize the mobile customer experience. (Tealeaf has worked on websites for Wal-Mart and Best Buy, among others.) They also analyze mobile online customer behavior to improve a site and, of course, its sales conversion rates.

People such as Unity Mobile’s West know retailers need to follow the mobile commerce leaders. “The line between the Internet and the mobile web is going to disappear,” West added. “Major players like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Apple are making massive investments in the mobile world. They realize it’s the future of the Internet — it’s the future of their business.”

It’s also the future of your business, and the time to act is now. Need proof? Visit your company’s website on your cell phone and see what your customers experience — and what you may be missing.

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