July 13, 2010, 6:28 PM

Mobile commerce explosion!

BigCommerce plans to bring 6,000 new m-commerce sites to life.

Bill Siwicki

Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce

Lead Photo

By the end of the month, one e-commerce platform provider is going to single-handedly change the face of mobile commerce. There are around 175 retailers active in m-commerce today, according to Internet Retailer research. When BigCommerce later this month flips the switch activating the latest version of its e-commerce platform, delivered through the software-as-a-service model, all 6,000 of its merchant clients will have mobile-optimized versions of their e-commerce sites.

BigCommerce clients’ m-commerce sites will be optimized for the iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Palm Pre and Android mobile devices. Consumers who tap in a BigCommerce retailer client’s web site address into their phones will be directed to the mobile-optimized version of the retailer’s site; consumers coming to the sites via other mobile devices will be directed to the conventional e-commerce site.

BigCommerce will take the data feeds used to create and populate the merchants' e-commerce sites and funnel them into templates specially designed for mobile web sites. There is no extra fee for mobile optimization, which will be bundled into the technology provider's new version of its e-commerce platform.

The move by BigCommerce confirms a major trend in m-commerce: e-commerce vendors adding m-commerce functionality to their platforms and launching the new functionality with a huge number of their retailer clients.

In June, Yahoo Stores, which has 45,000 merchants on its platform, and m-commerce technology provider Unbound Commerce inked a deal to collaborate in mobile; they predict 250 new m-commerce sites by year’s end. Also in June, e-commerce platform provider Venda Inc. and m-commerce technology vendor Digby announced a partnership; they predict 200 Venda clients will have m-commerce sites by December.

Then on July 2, Internet Retailer exclusively reported that software-as-a-service e-commerce platform vendor Shopatron Inc. will launch mobile-optimized sites for 610 of its more than 800 mostly consumer brand manufacturer clients, with the rest to come by fall.

Now comes BigCommerce. Today the company, which targets small and mid-sized merchants that reap up to $5 million in annual sales, begins the final phase of a closed beta test with 500 of its clients that it handpicked based on the amount of feedback they’ve provided in past. The vendor will use their feedback on the new m-commerce functionality to make any final tweaks to the latest version of the e-commerce platform and release the new system sometime before the end of the month.

“Smaller retailers don’t have the budgets the big guys do so they have to make the most out of every impression on their site when someone comes to their store. And if a shopper comes to their store on a mobile device and it’s not a mobile-optimized experience, he’s going to leave and go somewhere else,” says Mitchell Harper, co-founder and co-CEO of BigCommerce. “Adding mobile commerce to our e-commerce offering is another way for us to help our merchants increase their conversion.”

Harper says the world is changing fast, and retailers have to change with it if they want to be successful.

“It’s very clear: People are not just shopping from their desks anymore,” he says. “They could be on a bus or a train, or sitting in a theater waiting for a movie to start. They literally can be anywhere. And people browsing the mobile web now expect to see a version of a web site that looks good and works well on their phones. If they don’t see what they expect, they will think your business has fallen behind, and that can really damage your credibility.”

BigCommerce will make a formal announcement on its e-commerce platform upgrade and new m-commerce functionality toward the end of the month.

Comments | 6 Responses

  • At Magento we are hearing from our customers (brands and retailers, 60,000 worldwide) that they are more interested in Native Mobile eCommerce Applications (like iPhone apps) than WAP (mobile browser store) solutions that have been around for years as defined above. With this, Magento announced its new Mobile eCommerce Platform early June allowing eTailers to easily build native iphone ecommerce applications. Magento Mobile can be found http://www.magentocommerce.com/product/mobile Bob Schwartz President, Magento

    • Kinda on the fence about that - I agree that my first reaction would be an actual app would be way cooler, but for a small business how many people would really download that app? Great idea for big business like Bestbuy or Amazon but the average store would get way more traffic by just optimizing their website for mobile devices.

    • BeardPapa Good point, that is why Magento eCommerce platform has WAP (optimized website for mobile) functionality right out of the box and has had this for 2 years. Best of all worlds: Magento WAP & new Magento Mobile for Native Apps (iPhone).

    • Bob - I would agree with you that Native Applications (like iPhone apps) give a great brand and shopping experience. But I would have to disagree that the majority of retailers are interested in Native Applications. The mobile web brings massive convenience to online shopping and unfortunately customers will not download a native application for every store that they shop. While brand loyalists may go for an app, the best ROI for retailers is to invest in their mobile optimized storefront (calling it just a WAP site does not do it justice). With HTML 5, the mobile storefront can leverage a lot of the native functionality of the smartphone such as GPS location to find stores that are closest to you (see http://m.columbia.com). At Demandware, our clients prefer the mobile storefront and are seeing excellent results. We recently hosted a webinar focused on mobile commerce with Brian Walker, Forrester Research and Larry Promisel, VP of eCommerce, Barneys New York - check it out - http://bit.ly/afuOTF Adam Forrest, Product Marketing Manager, Demandware

  • This is a fantastic discussion. Shortly after the release of the iPad I received a great analysis by Jacob Nielsen which I think outlines this discussion well (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/ipad.html). I will quote a piece here: "A strategic issue for iPad user experience design is whether to emphasize user empowerment or author authority. Early designs err on the side of being too restrictive. Using the Web has given people an appreciation for freedom and control, and they're unlikely to happily revert to a linear experience. Publishers hope that users will perceive content as more valuable if each publication is a stand-alone environment. Similarly, they hope for higher value-add if users spend more time with fewer publications rather than flit among a huge range of sites like they do on the Web. Using the desktop Web, a user can easily visit 100 sites in a week, viewing only 1–3 pages on most of them... Most sites are visited once-only, because users dredge them up in a search or stumble upon links from other sites or social media postings." I believe this same logic applies to mCommerce. While industry gorillas like Amazon.com would love to have customers using a dedicated shopping app, and they may be able to get away with it, most purveyors of eCommerce will need to rely on the open web paradigm. Realistically, we may get a people buying a pair of Spy sunglasses or a Mizuno jersey on their phone, but not many people will go out of their way to download an app to do it. At Shopatron, we have done some good thinking, surveying and testing around this question. To make an app compelling enough to download, we believe must be more than a shop - it needs either useful tools, compelling entertainment features or unique information. All of this requires effort to build, which is effort that most companies are not yet ready to commit. But putting an optimized interface on their product data and shopping functionality is something that our Shopatron brands are very happy for us to do. Apps have their place, but not necessarily in mCommerce.

  • Mitch from BigCommerce here (@mitchellharper on Twitter). Just wanted to share my opinion on the app vs browser experience on mobile devices. From what I've seen, mobile commerce lends itself quite well to impulse buying. One personal example: I was sitting at LAX waiting to board my flight to Austin, TX where our headquarters is. I wanted to buy some shoes for an upcoming trip to Cancun off Zappos (http://www.zappos.com/product/7652766/color/64633) so I jumped on Zappos.com on my iPhone which automatically took me to their mobile-optimized store. Within 2 minutes I'd found the shoes, had been upsold on a similar pair of shoes, paid for them and entered our Austin office address for shipping. The shoes arrived the next morning in Austin. Now considering this was an impulse buy, had Zappos not had a mobile store I'm not sure I would've even thought to download an app from the appstore just to purchase. In my mind (and I know in many consumers minds - based on research and my discussions) the buying process for ecommerce happens lends itself well to a web browser, and mobile safari on my iPhone is just as good as Safari on the desktop. I definitely agree that for huge brands like BestBuy and Amazon, an application could work - because it could push alerts to your phone for new products, news, etc, but for the majority of our merchants (who are doing less than $5M revenue), they told us a mobile-optimized browsing experience is what they want - they don't have the technical know-how or budget to customize an iPhone application, submit it to Apple, wade through the approval process, keep the application up to date, etc - they want something that "just works" out of the box. No configuration or deployment necessary so that's what we're doing with BigCommerce 6. Here's a quick video demo of our mobile commerce offering coming in a few weeks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKnopFxpK-8 Plus, a mobile-optimized version of an ecommerce store is cross platform. When designed with webkit it will work on the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Palm Pre, all Android devices and the soon-to-be-released new Blackberry with a webkit browser. Compare that to an iPhone application which will only work on Apple devices and you are limiting your reach while at the same time requiring potential customers to put in the effort to download your application from the app store. Again, just my opinion but I live, breath and love e-commerce and mobile commerce so I thought I would share my views. Cheers, Mitchell Harper BigCommerce co-founder @mitchellharper on Twitter mitch[AT]bigcommerce[DOT]com

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