Mobile's surge

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Brands embrace m-commerce by developing apps and building sites for smartphones and tablet users
Brands embrace m-commerce by developing apps and building sites for smartphones and tablet users

Not every brand goes out of its way to develop an original mobile site. Gavin Masters, e-commerce delivery manager at Hallmark, says his company's m-commerce site is an optimized version of the company's website. The retailer works with EPiServer, a content management company, to integrate their commerce platform across channels. While many industry experts bang the drum for a complete re-architecting of m-commerce sites, Masters says that can result in endlessly chasing new technology. “By the time we get around to re-architecting, the devices change,” he says. “Today's mobile browsers are a lot more accommodating of standard sites than they have been.”

Hallmark instead focuses its resources on mobile apps. Masters says the company has “double-figure apps internationally [and] five or six in the U.S.” Hallmark's Story Buddies app is designed for consumers that have already made a Hallmark purchase, in order to engender loyalty. The app features interactive stories and games designed to “enrich the [customer] experience.”

Hallmark's mobile transactions increase each year. M-commerce transactions comprise roughly 10% to 15% of all of Hallmark's e-commerce transactions.

A seamless experience

Although many retailers prefer differentiated approaches to how they develop and optimize mobile sites and apps, Michael Murray, CMO of e-commerce and online at Sears, says his company offers a seamless and uniform experience across all devices.

“Whether m-site or mobile apps, we're really agnostic … We're looking to make sure that the customer experience is continuous and integrated,” Murray says. “Mobile phone, PC, tablet, all of those expressions should be consistent and uniform to help that customer. It takes a lot of hard work to help the customer in that way, but it's worth it.” He says Sears' goal is integrating online with mobile and physical stores. “Mobile is a bright tile in that mosaic.”

While Sears optimizes its sites to offer similar experiences, it does acknowledge that consumers' mobile device use differs from PC behavior. Since 2010, the retailer has enabled consumers to order an item on a mobile device and pick it up at a retail location within five minutes. Prior to the holiday season, Sears launched a similar policy for returns.

Craig Shields, VP of e-commerce at Jewelry Television, says his goal is to ensure a consistent experience across mobile and online devices.

“There's a number of companies that have standalone, siloed solutions that can get to market fast, but there can be differences in inventory results, search results and shopping carts,” he says. “We wanted to provide a consistent experience so that the shopping cart online and on mobile is the same.”

Jewelry Television partners with Demandware on its e-commerce platform, which Shields says Jewelry Television was able to extend to mobile platforms.

“Consistency is important,” Shields explains. “Any customer with an iPhone probably hasn't had one for more than two or three years. It's still a new experience for shopping online. To interact and find that the online website and the mobile website aren't the same is an unfriendly experience. Plus, internal costs, complications and inefficiencies [are an issue].”

Jewelry Television launched its m-commerce site and apps in 2010 and is in the process of developing an iPad app, which Shields expects to launch this summer.

Ken Mowry, SVP of digital marketing and customer engagement at Charming Shoppes, says his company focuses solely on the mobile site. The company does not have a mobile app and Mowry is skeptical about whether apps will ever play a major role in generating mobile transactions.

“We have not launched an app experience primarily over the concern over low adoption rate,” Mowry says. “There's an [industry-wide] 70% drop-off after the initial app download. Unless you come up with a unique app experience, it's a challenge to get customers to come back to it.”

Instead of spending valuable resources on an app that Mowry thinks consumers will download once and then discard, Charming Shoppes focuses on customizing its m-commerce experience on smartphones and tablets.

Charming Shoppes works with e-commerce platform provider Fry to optimize and tailor its various m-commerce offerings. It launched its first m-commerce site last year, and, in that time 10.5% of its e-commerce revenue has come through mobile, 7% of which came from tablet shoppers.

Sunglasses retailer EyeSave has also foregone the app route in favor of focusing on m-commerce sites. It works with e-commerce technology services provider Mercent to handle its data feed to third-party sites like Amazon. Mercent optimizes those feeds for the best mobile performance.

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