Retail web sites that cater to technologically hip and sophisticated shoppers should consider preparing the sites for the first wave of shopping from cell phones and other mobile devices, warns David Jilk, CEO of Xaffire Inc., a provider of web site performance monitoring technology. “This Christmas could be the year that people start to buy their gifts on mobile devices,” he tells InternetRetailer.com.
Although Jilk says no retailer is likely to lose any sales this year if their web site isn’t prepared for mobile commerce, he contends that retailers who try to accommodate at least a basic m-commerce experience could win over customers as m-commerce begins to take hold. “If a retailer’s brand is one of being hip, it may want to begin to support m-commerce, because if it succeeds this Christmas, their mobile shoppers will be back,” he says.
A growing number of young consumers are using cell phones like the Sidekick II from T-Mobile U.S.A. Inc., while technologically savvy older consumers are brandishing Blackberry mobile devices, and each group has the capability to shop online from their handhelds more easily than ever before, Jilk says.
But most web sites are not designed to work well with mobile devices, whose display screens and web-browsing capabilities are still more limited in comparison to the capabilities of conventional computers. “Sites need to conform to mobile usage, because a mobile device user may have to work hard to find information fields,” Jilk says.
Retailers will want to provide lightweight versions of their web sites, with briefer product descriptions and possibly lighter images, for handheld users, says John Rozen, chief operating officer of Mirror Image Internet Inc., a provider of content delivery solutions for online merchants. “Shopping on portable devices is coming-it’s a year and a half away at the most,” Rozen says.
Other options, Jilk says, are to reduce the number of pages in the navigation and checkout process for mobile device users and to let m-commerce shoppers place items in a shopping cart and finish the purchase when they get to a conventional computer.
“I wouldn’t suggest retailers put a major investment this year into making lightweight sites for this Christmas, but if they cater to high-tech shoppers, lightweight features could produce a valuable image,” Jilk says.