March 1, 2011, 12:00 AM

Over and Above

(Page 2 of 2)

Content control
Jewelry Television also relies on Demandware's content management system to control content not just on its e-commerce site but its m-commerce site and mobile app, as well. Content ranges from product description text to promotional banners to imagery. It also includes Gemopedia, an encyclopedia that educates shoppers on gemstones, from background to purchasing to cleaning.

"A good content management system is a fundamental part of any mobile effort, but for us it is not separate for mobile. We tap into our e-commerce site for content, which is controlled in the Demandware system," Engle says. "We did have to create some unique content for mobile, such as for our Gemopedia. But we just formatted it for mobile and placed it in the content management system."

Sometimes, though, a mobile platform comes equipped with its own version of systems commonly found on e-commerce platforms, and retailers opt to use the mobile version. Such is the case at Patagonia with site search. In fact, the mobile site search trumps the web site search in one important way.

The trump card is type-ahead functionality. When a shopper begins entering text into the mobile site search box, the system makes guesses as to what the full keyword or phrase is, displaying suggestions in windows below the box. The shopper can then just touch a suggestion rather than having to finish entering an entire term or phrase.

"This is important in mobile because typing on a mobile device can be a challenge," Stefanski says. "That is part of the Sprella platform that is an improvement over our e-commerce site."

While m-commerce platforms integrate with e-commerce platforms or sometimes offer improved versions of e-commerce systems, in many cases they must also be able to hook up with systems from different vendors designed for specific features and functions.

Patagonia's e-commerce site uses ratings and reviews technology from vendor LivePerson Inc. Stefanski says Patagonia's m-commerce platform is designed to be easy to integrate with other systems, and the experience with customer reviews illustrates that.

"LivePerson provided some application program interfaces to Sprella, and Sprella was able to get that information into the app," he explains. "It was very simple and required no work from us."

Guided navigation, site search, customer reviews—these are web and mobile shopping tools that are common. Some retailers in mobile, however, are insisting some very advanced systems be part of their m-commerce platforms.

Buy.com Inc., for instance, includes standard site search on its platform, but decided that shoppers in the mobile realm need a better way to input search terms. So it integrated voice recognition technology from vendor MeMeMe into the mobile app platform it built in-house. Now, shoppers just touch the voice button and speak keywords into the phone. MeMeMe's system recognizes the words and populates the mobile site search box.

Buy.com worked on its mobile app for a year, and a lot of that work was fine-tuning its advanced voice recognition system, with staff members testing the system every day.

"We got to a point where we were comfortable with launching it, but we still continue to improve it every day, and a year from now it will function significantly different than it does today," says Jeff Wisot, vice president of marketing at Buy.com. "In the future you will be able to use voice during checkout, to insert information and do a lot more than just search. This is all because the app is focused on customer convenience and customers on the go."

And that is exactly what a mobile commerce platform should do: Provide an environment that meets the needs of shoppers who generally are looking to buy something quickly, and do so not just through its own technology but with the help of e-commerce platforms and other online retail systems. For if platforms don't provide a complete and well-executed mobile experience, shoppers may become frustrated and touch their smartphone screens in another direction. And retailers that lead the way with advanced technology in mobile, like type-ahead and voice recognition, may gain more loyal customers who lean toward the best mobile experiences available.

bill@verticalwebmedia.com

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