An overview of what makes a successful mobile commerce strategy, and steps to take to improve your current strategy.

How to Optimize for Mobile Commerce

eCommerce companies have faced significant disruption over the years. Online shoppers are increasingly purchasing products from smartphones and using social media to assess final purchases. Shoppers are even using specified Tweets and hashtags (#) to conduct transactions on Twitter.

According to a report by Gartner, the eCommerce market is expected to reach $370 billion in the United States alone by 2017. With the market expanding and competition growing, eCommerce companies must attend to new trends in web development to keep their web presence and brand notoriety up to par.

Retailers must adapt to new conditions such as social media marketing, mobile shoppers and location based marketing. Without a strategy that incorporates and experiments with rising trends, eCommerce brands will be hard pressed to compete with their tech-savvy competition.

Improved Web Experiences

Poorly designed websites with inefficient ordering systems, slow loading times, and low-quality images are primary issues associated with underperforming eCommerce websites. Such problems must be attended to in order to increase customer satisfaction and retention.

Online retailers must develop and expand their services in addition to improving on a number of user related elements (like interactive galleries and faceted search) that are associated with a site. Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru says that much of the growth in U.S. eCommerce sales will stem from online retailers improving their web sites and services:

“This is particularly true of categories such as apparel and jewelry, which have integrated rich selling tools such as zoom, color switching, and configurators broader payment options and subscription plans for their buyers.”

Innovative web applications and website functionality helps to engage shoppers and keep them on a site for longer. eCommerce sites must pay attention to web design, gallery presentation, search interfaces and mobile optimized shopping experiences. Without attention to such areas, an eCommerce site will fail to stand out in the crowded online marketplace.

Make Mobile a Priority

Out of all the disruptive technologies to come about, smartphones and mobile shoppers are likely to become major revenue drivers for eCommerce in the near future. Gartner found that between 2010 and 2013 mobile eCommerce spending increased from $600 million to $4.7 billion. On Cyber Monday, 17% of all transactions on eCommerce were conducted via mobile device.

To achieve optimal ROI from mobile strategies, brands must adequately understand their audience and their device habits. Are they coming from tablets? Do the majority of visitors use Android? These are crucial questions to ask prior to instituting a mobile strategy.

One of the best ways to adapt to the mobile shopper is for companies to build sites using Responsive Web Design (RWD). Optimizing accessibility and navigation of a site for varying mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, will prevent mobile shoppers from abandoning carts due to poor web experiences.

Toys “R” Us for instance, has made numerous improvements to its mobile site including streamlining the checkout process. The upshot resulted in the toy store chain being conferred as the best mobile site user experience with a score of 83.5 out of 100.

Hybrid Shopping Experiences

With new technologies such as beacons and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) appliances, brands can deliver eCommerce shopping discounts to customers in-store. Geo-fencing, which delivers SMS messages or notifications to users with a downloaded app in a specific location, is a great way to innovate when it comes to eCommerce marketing.

With beacons and BLE, eCommerce brands can even advertise offline. Mobile tracking and mobile offers are creating huge opportunity for eCommerce marketers to identify and target customers through location based marketing campaigns. One of the most innovative location-based campaigns in recent memory was launched by Meat Pack, a Guatemalan shoe store.

Meat Pack set up geo-fences around competitor stores such as Nike and Adidas, and was able to target people shopping for sneakers. Any time a consumer with the Meat Pack app entered a competitor’s store, Meat Pack sent a discount in the form of a countdown timer starting at 99%. The campaign was dubbed ‘Hijack’.

The countdown reduced by 1% every second and the consumer had to reach the nearest Meat Pack shop where the timer would stop as soon as they entered. The user was left with whatever discount percentage was still displayed on the app. In a weeks’ time Meat Pack had stolen over 600 shoppers from competitors.

Mobile Commerce Centric

Reshaping eCommerce strategies needs to take into account reorganizing and improving website design and usability. But additional strategies such as geo-fencing for targeted mobile marketing, and optimizing mobile experiences can expand an eCommerce brands reach and increase sales.

Signs You Need Mobile Commerce

As mobile devices, social media and ubiquitous Wi-Fi have become truly prolific, many brand’s eCommerce platforms have yet to compensate. A study conducted by IMRG in 2013 claimed that sales via mobile devices account for most of online growth.

This is a clear indication of a major shift in consumer behavior where online shoppers are migrating to mobile devices. For brands that want to win over mobile customers and propel business growth, being mobile ready is not just a matter of choice.

Mobile is now a business imperative for eCommerce websites and brands.

Low Conversion Rate

Today’s tech savvy mobile users have little patience when it comes to navigating through a website that is not mobile optimized. Research indicates that almost 30% of buyers using small screen devices abandon a transaction if the web experience is not optimized for mobile.

When viewed on small screens, desktop only websites create many hassles. For example, useful information get buried under multiple layers of awkward menus and ill-fitting content. This will directly lead to a user seeking out rival brands that offer a more seamless transaction experience. Deterred users will add to the mobile bounce rate if they have to look at illegible text, or if there are no zoom or swipe features in the product gallery.

Mobile eCommerce websites have several unique features that provide an appropriate and intuitive online experience to engage mobile users.

Online Sales Slipping

According to a report form  Forrester Research, U.S. mobile commerce sales are set to grow to more than $110 billion in 2014. Without a standard mobile shopping option, enterprises would find it difficult to cater to the shopping needs of this growing mobile customer base.

A desktop only website cannot adequately attract a mobile user due to the inherently different shopping experiences on smartphones and tablets as compared to desktops. Mobile shoppers prefer a touch friendly display where related products can be instantly selected for comparison, or a simple touch enabled gesture can add items to a cart. They also need larger images and touch-savvy buttons so that unintentional actions are reduced.

Mobile friendly interfaces also provide a great way to present products via touch-enabled photo galleries. Most smartphones are limited by a screen size of 4-5 inches, which requires a brand to be creative in terms of presenting HD images. Such screen size based customization is crucial in the context of mobile shopping, where impulse buyers are plenty and the key to success is user engagement.

Poor Web Experience

An online retailer identified that conversion rates were low for their targeted email campaign. It quickly found out that due to poor display of alerts on mobile devices, users were not receiving a seamless shopping experience. This directly led to them not finishing the purchase process. This inadequate shopping experience on mobile devices led to sufficient revenue loss as well as a negative impact on brand notoriety.

The company decided to implement a mobile eCommerce solution to avoid such issues in the future. The new solution provided efficient registration processes and integrated the sign up option with social media accounts. The product display on smaller screens looked sharp, and images and links were redesigned to become touch and swipe friendly.

Within a couple of months, revenue via smartphone channels shot up by almost 90%. And on top of that improvement, mobile traffic increased from 11% to 26% within 3 months. At the same time, customers received a full-fledged mobile shopping experience that helped to strengthen their brand image.

Non-Optimal Mobile Websites

With the enhanced look and feel of a mobile optimized website, brands can create a strong brand relationship with customers. Businesses can edge past their rivals by raking in business from the mobile shoppers.

In order to achieve ROI from a mobile revamped eCommerce site, enterprises need to understand their customer behavior and identify key areas of improvement to work on while developing their mobile strategy. With the right platform and a dedicated technology partner, a brand can take advantage of this seismic shift towards mobility and grown their own revenue and brand notoriety online.

How to Improve Sales

For 11 consecutive quarters the U.S. eCommerce industry has continued to experience double-digit growth. And much of that success is thanks to mobile.

Despite domineering players such as Amazon, Ebay, and Walmart, the growth has benefited small and midsize brands alike. Mobile ubiquity and billions of social media users have offered a new means to market, engage, and conduct transactions with a brand.

Ecommerce brands have experienced a resurgence of sorts thanks to the opportunity presented by mobile shoppers. Tablets and smartphones for instance are responsible for close to 10% of all eCommerce sales. It breaks down to 3.5% of total sales stemming from tablets and 6.5% from smartphones. Interestingly enough, tablet owners are likely to spend more per purchase than comparable smartphone users.

Now that 90% of US adults own a cellphone and more than half own a tablet or smartphone, eCommerce brands need to attend to the mobile space to garner increased sales. Expected to total $25 billion by the end of 2013, mobile eCommerce (or mCommerce) is here to stay.

In order to take full advantage of the new shopping medium, here are some critical tips and figures to help construct a viable mobile eCommerce presence.

Great Mobile Shopping Expectations

Apple’s App Store alone has given birth to 900,000 mobile apps that have been collectively downloaded more than 50 billion times. Mobile is no longer a possibility. Its here to stay.

And with a majority of adults in the US owning a smartphone or tablet, mobile eCommerce is not another hollowed buzzword. In fact Gartner recently reported that “more people have access to mobile devices than fresh drinking water and electricity”. As an eCommerce brand pursuing expansion it is critical at this point in time to attack mobile.

Some options for tactics include mobile marketing, a native app, or a mobile optimized website. There are countless means to attract mobile shoppers. Even SMS promotional campaigns bring about legitimate results for brands in 2013. Yet when it comes to the quality and engagement of mobile eCommerce strategies consumers are as discerning as ever.

Consumers have downloaded more than 3 billion apps every month for the past year. Never before has the average person interacted with software and technology at such a dazzling rate. Today’s shoppers literally spend hours every day with some of the most innovative technology in decades.

Although this creates a new potential channel for brands, a technologically literate populace is in a position to be especially critical of software and web experiences directed at them. For instance when it comes to websites the average visitor will leave a site for good if load times exceed four seconds.

For which ever route a brand pursues, it is advised to avoid undermining the importance of designing and developing with customer needs, expectation, and attitudes in mind.

Varying Mobile Devices

An important trend to acknowledge is that tablet users are the heavy hitters when it comes to mobile eCommerce purchases. ComScore recently reported that tablet owners spend 20% more on average than smartphone users. Smartphones are certainly a driver of mobile sales, but the device is often used for research prior to purchases given its limited screen real-estate and portability.

Designing apps and websites optimized specifically for the tablet as well as the smartphone is highly suggested. Tablets have larger screen real estate to make mobile shopping much more convenient. Larger buttons, detailed images, and faster load times help prime the device for mobile transactions.

Aside from aesthetics, understanding the nature of customers on different devices can help with precise offers. Orbitz implemented a strategy to target Mac users with specified and more luxurious offers as compared to PC users. This decision was made after analysis of demographic and device data. Mac owning households averaged a combined income of $98,560 while Windows households pulled in $74,452.

The same pricing and offer strategy can be executed with a mobile eCommerce site or app. Every computer or smartphone has a Unique Device Identifier (UDID) which can be used to ‘identify’ which brand and OS is running. This information can then be used to specifically tailor offers or digital experiences as mentioned.

Deliver on Expectations

Today’s shoppers are spoiled with incredible web experiences. They expect eCommerce websites and mobile apps to hold up to the quality and craftsmanship of Twitter, Facebook, and Google products.

Take cues from some of the leading web properties across the globe. Focus on large high quality HD images rather than tiny thumbnails. Spend time on creative product details. And of course, ensure seamless navigation and quick load times.

Shoppers have become increasingly privy to superb technological interactions. Emerging technical and maintenance issues for websites and apps can have a tremendous negative impact on sales. For large brands, one hour of website downtime results in $500,000 worth of lost sales.

To prevent traffic issues, make sure to contact the web hosting company in charge of the brand’s main site. Taking a proactive stance to the technical capacity of a mobile site or app can prevent lost sales opportunities.

Mobile eCommerce Is Here to Stay

Mobile has played a substantial role in a wide variety of economic sectors across the globe. Education, corporate communications, entertainment and even healthcare have ridden the mobile wave towards higher efficiency, increased communication, and greater revenues. By optimizing an eCommerce operation to embrace mobile as a legitimate channel, brands can substantially drive revenues and expand their customer base.