November 10, 2010, 1:54 PM

Mobile commerce sites leave room for improvement, study says

M-commerce sites earn low ratings in gift finding and inventory updates.

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Mobile commerce sites fail to provide consumers with quick ways to find gifts and check the availability of products, suggest new data from The E-tailing Group, a research and consulting firm.

The Mobile Commerce Mystery Shopping Study, the first such study for the company, measured the capabilities and functions of 50 mobile commerce web sites and concludes that e-retailers must do more to improve their m-commerce presence.

The firm evaluated how the sites delivered on six points, including product search and purchasing operations, store locator functions and customer service accessibility. The tester visited all 50 sites with the iPhone and 25 with a BlackBerry smart phone during the third quarter. The E-tailing Group says the different evaluation rate between iPhones and BlackBerries was on purpose because iPhones account for more m-commerce revenue than do other devices. The study did not evaluate m-commerce apps.

On a scale of one to 10, 10 being the best, the mobile sites collectively scored a 4.5 average. The average score for each evaluation point measure was:

Find a store: 7

Check store product availability: 2

Search for product: 3

Buy a gift: 3

Make a purchase: 6

Contact customer service: 6

“All in all it appears that there is some rough road ahead before mobile shopping reaches its full potential,” says Lauren Freedman, president of The E-tailing Group.

The report says retailers can improve even the higher-rated areas of the study. For example, although most retailers in the study had store locator functions, merchants could take advantage of geo-location technologies already embedded in mobile devices to deliver store information automatically, rather than wait for the customer to enter location information.

The report does applaud nine sites for their high ratings across multiple mobile functions, such as consistent cross-channel branding and overall ease of use. The retailers are Aveda, Best Buy, Crate & Barrel, Dockers, REI, Arden B, Coldwater Creek, Overstock and ShopNBC.

Freedman commends the retailers that jumped into mobile commerce early, but says they must now work hard to deliver on customers’ desires for solid mobile commerce experiences. “The expectation of the mobile consumer is very high and the patience level is low,” she says. There are retailers that execute well, while others put forth an adequate experience just to check off the box so that they can say they have a mobile site. Now they have to be diligent about improving the experience.”

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