May 27, 2010, 1:52 PM

Mobile site versus app: speed versus rich experience

QVC recognizes that tradeoff when designing its mobile strategy, though both its m-commerce site and its mobile apps emphasize fast checkout.

Bill Siwicki

Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce

Lead Photo

QVC CEO Mike George

Mobile web users have different expectations for sites and apps. Sites, especially for not-so-smart phones, should enable a consumer to quickly get to the product they want and make a purchase in as few steps as possible. Apps, on the other hand, are about the experience, where consumers expect exceptional design and rich features and functions.

QVC kept this in mind when crafting its m-commerce site, m.QVC.com, and its iPhone app and soon-to-be-released Android and BlackBerry apps. Its site is speedy, its app is rich.

The fully transactional m-commerce site highlights Today’s Special Value, Item On Air, Items Recently On Air and New Today, along with a box in which customers can enter an item number. The site also features a guide to QVC’s television programs.

Additionally, the site offers a function designed to quicken the purchasing process, which is crucial as consumers don’t want to input a lot of information on the small keyboards of mobile handsets. Speed Buy only requires a customer to enter her customer identification number or e-mail address along with her PIN to immediately purchase a product.

“It really was about speed and service as you think about where the mobile devices were before smartphones,” says Angie Simmons, executive vice president of multichannel platforms, of the site’s minimalist site design and fast checkout. “There needed to be flexibility, speed and ease of use—quickly buy Today’s Special Value or an Item on Air, that is where mobile started. But as mobile devices became more robust and the adoption of apps through smartphones grew, we enabled more robust features through an app, like searching and product demonstrations.”

When QVC, part of Liberty Media Corp., No. 11 in the <a href="http://www.internetretailer.com/top500/">Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide</a>, debuted its iPhone app six months ago, it greatly increased functionality over its m-commerce site, which is streamlined by design so it can be accessed by as many types of phones as possible.

The iPhone app, in contrast, is so feature-heavy it mimics the functionality of the e-commerce site. It opens with Today’s Special Value, Item On Air and Items Recently On Air, all with photos and product descriptions. A Featured button takes shoppers to a page of special products with larger images and more information, with arrows that when touched display product pages with even larger images and such features as color swatches.

The Search button pulls up the app search engine, enabling customers to hunt through QVC’s catalog of products. And E-mail An Item lets shoppers share product information with friends and family. Like the m-commerce site, the app features Speed Buy functionality.

“The app,” Simmons says, “complements our e-commerce site by providing our customers with the same brand experience.”

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