3 Experts Answer 3 MCommerce Questions

Many people say ecommerce is still a baby. So you can imagine how lots of big retailers feel about mcommerce. But it’s become an indisputable fact that mobile commerce is growing exponentially and that retailers can’t ignore it anymore.

We took some time to ask a few mobile commerce gurus about the what excites them most about mobile, what hurdlescompanies face and what the “next big thing” will be. Our very informed interviewees, Peter Sheldon, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research, Mickey Alam Khan, Editor‐in‐Chief, Mobile Marketer and Chris Brya, Director User Experience and E‐Commerce, Choice Hotels, were happy to share their insights. Here’s what they had to say.

What is the most exciting thing happening in mobile, right now?

Mickey Khan

MICKEY KHAN: Mobile is in a constant state of ferment. Take AT&T’s announcement that it would buy T‐Mobile USA. That shifts the tectonic plates under mobile. We see a lot of continued excitement around applications, HTML5, bar codes, social media and rich media advertising.

PETER SHELDON: In its infancy, mobile was perceived as just another new channel; a miniaturized version of the web. Retailers were focused on replicating the key online shopping features; search, browse, discovery and checkout from their ecommerce sites to the mobile web. Circa 2011, retailers have woken up to realize that mobile is not just another channel and can deliver all‐new mobile shopping experiences never before seen on the web or in‐store. Mobile apps like Converse’s “The Sampler” are combining the rear facing camera, retina touch screen and powerful processing capabilities of the iPhone to bring augmented reality to life. This capability answers one of the biggest consumer anxieties of buying footwear online ‘How will these sneakers look on my feet?.’ Not only does the feature have merit for increasing the conversion rate on the iPhone but it also augments the in‐store experience of the consumer. New mobile experiences are deepening brand affiliation, creating a ‘cool’ factor for marketing and reducing friction in the consumers’ cross channel shopping journey.

CHRIS BRYA: Two things: 1) Mobile being adopted as a channel. This took some time, but companies are no longer looking at mobile as a novelty or “up and coming” technology, but instead (and rightly) viewing mobile as a sales, marketing, distribution and communication channel.

2)Competition and Innovation. Apple’s constant innovation has fostered competition from Android which in turn, keeps Apple on it’s toes. All of this is driving newer,more innovative products, services and technologies which benefit us all. This will go on for quite some time so it will be fun to watch, learn and explore.

What are the greatest hurdles companies face in leveraging mobile?

MICKEY KHAN: Lack of proper understanding of how mobile works with other mediums and channels is a major issue. So is the confusion generated over the many platforms in mobile…where do companies begin to make an investment?

Peter Sheldon

PETER SHELDON: The pace of the change. Brands with deep pockets like eBay, Amazon and Bestbuy have been able to keep up with their customers’ adoption of new touch‐points, optimizing the mobile web experience and releasing engaging apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone 7 and other platforms. However, for the thousands of smaller and midsize retailers the realization that they are getting left behind is starting to set in. Many retailers are planning to get more aggressive with their mobile strategy in 2011 but lack the budgets and resources of the big players. The cost of developing native apps for multiple touch points is prohibitive for many retailers, which in part is driving a new focus on hybrid apps that leverage HTML5 to create an app‐like experience at a much lower cost point.

Chris Brya

CHRIS BRYA: Determining what innovations and/or technologies to leverage. There is an ever evolving sphere of mobile opportunity around us constantly now. The real trick for us is to determine what specific technology or mobile feature to launch, not if we should launch. There are plenty of business driving innovations in mobile, all of which we could deploy, but we need to determine what’s best for our customers and deploy those that give them the most benefit.

How do you see the shape of mobile changing over the next few years?

MICKEY KHAN: There will be some element or the other of mobility in the technology we use five years down the road. Also, mobile in five years may encompass all computing and play a big role in how the home and office are run. Of course, mobile advertising and marketing as well as mobile commerce will continue to grow in tandem with other marketing mediums and channels. Mobile can only thrive in the multi‐channel context.

PETER SHELDON: Mobile will become the epicenter of the consumer’s shopping experience. As retailers embrace agile commerce; a move from a channel centric retail model to a customer centric one and the number of consumer touch points continues to proliferate, the ‘always with me’ smart‐phone will not only command greater attention but serve as the key bond between all touch points. The unique attributes of mobile as a shopping tool (mobility, connectivity & location awareness) will mean that mobile tomorrow will play an even greater role in influencing retail transactions than the web does today. Be it product discovery and research, in‐store self checkout, payment using NFC or the advent of mobile micro‐payments such as paying for car parking, in the future mobile will play a role in almost every transaction consumers make.

CHRIS BRYA: I think there is a lot of excitement over developing new types of technology that will bridge the user experience gap in mobile web vs. application interface designs e.g. HTML5. While we’re not quite there yet, I believe that the user experiences will become more robust and more seamless no matter what screen you’re utilizing. I also think that our current world and what is considered “mobile” will become more and more blurred and that tablet/iPad type devices will replace laptops in the very near future, especially for the business user and traveler.