Tom Davis gives a mobile breakdown by retailer category and asks: Why do all mobile sites look the same?

Mobile sites are following a format, at least for the most part.

Tom Davis, VP, eCommerce, Kenneth Cole, did a little research to see who’s doing what and whether there are any patterns. He wasn’t sure exactly what he’d find, but discovered there are patterns, and broke those down to three e-Commerce categories.

First you have the mass merchants such as a Zappos, Target or Sears store. Then there are what he calls the “look up sites,” which tend to be location based and timely, i.e. a hotel site, an airline, a movie site like Fandango. And lastly, there are the brand retailers like Kenneth Cole. Each are attacking mobile in a specific way.

Mass retailers, Davis found, tend to focus on search functions, probably because they have so many skus of product that they want to encourage users to get where they want to get quickly and easily. The look-up sites tend to focus on a login function, presuming the user has already purchased from them and is looking to check out details like flight information, hotel reservations, etc. As for brand retailers, there’s more focus on a continuity with brand image and experience and making sure that carries through on mobile.

“It’s really about a cross-channel experience,” said Davis. “The experience should be the same wherever you’re viewing. [At Kenneth Cole] I identified with our marketing and product team what was important. I took out everything that was not essential to driving a quick efficient process and experience to checkout.”

For instance, Davis drilled into what were the key navigational items on the website and decided to narrow it down on the mobile site to simply “Men,” “Women,” and “Sale,” removing the categories of “Shoes,” “Kids,” and “Accessories.”

Right now, 10 percent of Kenneth Cole’s web traffic comes from mobile devices and four percent of revenue is driven through that channel. But Davis sees much more potential than that, and much of it will come in innovation within the space.

“My pet peeve is, ‘Why are all these mobile sites designed the same?’” said Davis. “We have this need to scroll up and down. You can scroll side to side, you don’t have to have vertical menus, you don’t even have to use words.”

He cited his 3-year-old son who knows how to use an iPad better than his wife or his mother. He knows how to go to APPS because of colors and pictures – he’s not reading. Davis thinks this is a real opportunity for the future. Why not use icon-based mobile sites? After searching through dozens of mobile sites, Davis finally found an example that’s doing it well – Burger King. Its mobile site utilizes icons in a way he plans to push for at Kenneth Cole and hopes other retailers will as well.

“I believe within one year, the mobile form factor will be bigger than some standalone stores,” said Davis. “It’s the easiest business case scenario, and that’s just today – I get excited about what’s coming tomorrow.”