May 27, 2010, 1:46 PM

Athletic shoe retailer Finish Line finds mobile is a good fit

Finish Line says 8% of its online customers access its sites though mobile devices.

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Finish Line says 3% of its e-commerce revenue comes from mobile commerce. And 8% of its online customers access its mobile or traditional sites though mobile devices, up from 3% in September. It’s stats like this, says Roger Underwood, senior vice president of e-commerce, that show a mobile strategy is important.

Finish Line used Unbound Commerce to build its mobile site in February. Unbound has helped build mobile sites for such e-retailers as Moosejaw Mountaineering and K&L Wine Merchants.  While the site doesn’t yet enable shoppers to complete a transaction, Finish Line is adding a shopping cart in the next month, Underwood says. Currently, shoppers can view the full product catalog, browse product reviews and access a store locator. If they want to make a purchase, consumers can check out at Finish Line’s traditional e-commerce site or click a button to place a call to Finish Line’s customer service staff who will take the order by phone.

When developing its m-commerce strategy, Underwood says Finish Line decided to create a mobile site first, before getting into apps that are specific to particular smartphones. The goal was to see which types of phones were accessing the site most often and then develop apps for those handsets first. About 60% of mobile traffic comes from devices made by Apple Inc., including the iPhone, and about 10% comes from BlackBerrys, Underwood says. As a result, Finish Line has already started working on a mobile iPhone app. “A lot more people on the iPhone are engaged in mobile commerce than on a BlackBerry,” Underwood says.
 
Finish Line also chose to auto-direct mobile users to its mobile site. That way, Underwood says, shoppers will see the best, cleanest version of the Finish Line site even if they don’t know to type in m.finishline.com.

Another part of Finish Line’s mobile strategy has been to try to keep some core functions of the traditional e-commerce site when going mobile. For example, Finish Line uses Endeca for site search and navigation on the web and uses the vendor’s technology for m.finishline.com, too. It also uses its e-commerce ratings and reviews vendor, Bazaarvoice, for its mobile site. And, for its upcoming commerce-enabled mobile site, Unbound will connect to ATG, Finish Line’s e-commerce platform provider, for checkout. 

Levering existing applications saves time because Finish Line is already comfortable with the systems and because it eliminates the need for Finish Line to write new code or find a new vendor to provide the services. What’s more, it offers a familiar user experience for shoppers who are used to navigating the retailer’s e-commerce site. For example, the mobile site has the same top navigation options as Finishline.com. And, on the soon-to-launch m-commerce site, shoppers will be able to see their Winner’s Circle rewards points and security trustmarks just as they would if checking out on the e-commerce site, Underwood says.

Finish Line did make some tweaks to account for the difference between accessing a web site via PC versus a mobile device. For example, with m.finishline.com, reviews are located right on the home page so that shoppers can easily see what consumers said about a pair of shoes while trying them on in a store.

“You have to remember, a mobile site is different than an e-commerce site,” Underwood says. “You can’t just render your current site in a mobile format.”

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