October 5, 2010, 10:50 AM

Bucking the trend, retailer to ‘lighten’ its e-commerce site for mobile shoppers

Accessory Geeks is trying a mobile site, but a fast, graphical e-commerce site may be better.

Lead Photo

Accessory Geeks is testing an m-commerce site (above) but likely will focus its efforts on an e-commerce site optimized for fast mobile performance and functionality.

This year alone, hundreds of retailers have joined the ranks of merchants operating mobile commerce sites. And the number of merchants creating specially optimized standalone mobile sites just keeps growing.

Accessory Geeks, however, is bucking the trend, heading down a path that will ultimately lead it to a single optimized e-commerce site that serves the shopping needs of both consumers on a desktop PC and those accessing the site on a smartphone. It’s not an m-commerce site, but an e-commerce site that offers a more user-friendly experience for shoppers on the mobile web.

“I don’t feel like the m-commerce sites we’re seeing from a lot of vendors are there yet—I need to see a lot more graphical interfaces on mobile sites. So I don’t want to invest too much into current mobile site design, which is a site heavily driven by just the catalog,” says David Byun, president of Accessory Geeks, who believes sites driven by products in a catalog, ones that focus on text and do not offer a lot of graphic design, are not the ideal. “By next year with the development of even better mobile devices and with wireless networks becoming a lot more stable, things will change for mobile commerce.”

And things are changing fast in mobile for Accessory Geeks. Traffic from mobile devices to the e-commerce site and m-commerce site—it’s testing a mobile site built by Unbound Commerce—increased 70% from December 2009 to today, now making up 5% of total web traffic. The number of orders placed on mobile devices, whether through the e-commerce site or the m-commerce test site, increased 160% in that same timeframe. Orders placed on mobile devices now make up 3% of total revenue for the merchant. Of that revenue, 47% stems from Android devices, 38% from iPhones, 6% from iPod Touch devices, 6% from BlackBerrys and 3% from other mobile devices.

This is why Byun knows he has to provide the best experience for mobile shoppers fast. Byun feels that today’s m-commerce sites do not offer a shopping experience that meets customers’ desires the way e-commerce sites do. It may be that some mobile shoppers desire a full e-commerce experience when shopping on their smartphones, but in general, mobile shoppers expect some form of optimization that makes the web experience as user-friendly as possible on their mobile devices.

While still testing the m-commerce site, Accessory Geeks’ solution is to construct a new e-commerce site that, while still graphical, is “lighter”—for example, using pictures that are optimized to be smaller in size to help ensure faster page load times. He has hired web design firm EY Studio to assist with the redesign.

“Right now we’re approaching the m-commerce question from both ends, simplifying the full e-commerce site, and creating a more interactive, graphical experience on the mobile site,” Byun explains. “My ultimate goal is to meet in the middle and develop one site that will satisfy mobile users and standard web users instead of developing two different sites. Conversion is about the same when it comes to customers accessing the e-commerce site on a mobile device versus accessing an m-commerce site. I believe people want a better experience out of a site when on a mobile device instead of the current trend of just catalog-driven m-commerce sites. Hopefully we can get there by working from both ends.”

Looking ahead, Byun indeed sees the e- and the m- coming together for Accessory Geeks, though it may take a little time. “While we will have a mobile site available for those who want it,” he says, “we anticipate that in 12-24 months there will be a nexus between the mobile web browsing and standard web browsing experiences that will allow for one fully featured web site that is easily accessible and seamlessly used on multiple browsing platforms.”

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