August 23, 2011, 12:49 PM

Crutchfield builds for the next generation of mobile commerce

The retailer, deciding m-commerce is a strategic priority, redesigns its site.

Lead Photo

The merchant's m-commerce site features navigation centered on Shop, Research and Contact.

It’s a rare thing to see a redesigned mobile commerce site today. Most merchants in mobile are on their debut site, making tweaks here and there. But a small but growing number of retailers are redesigning their m-commerce sites, learning from their experiences to date and making changes they believe will help them sell and help their customers research.

Electronics retailer Crutchfield Corp. is one of these merchants. It has overhauled its site based on the positive experiences it has had in m-commerce and on what its site analytics reveal.

Crutchfield’s original m-commerce site was built by a vendor that used the process of transcoding—in laymen’s terms, it took the code from the e-commerce site and translated it into a mobile-friendly format. In this way, there is not too much of a difference between the style of the two sites, except that the content is optimized to appear bigger on the smaller screen of a smartphone.

“This method required basically no internal development resources to build or maintain, and provided a good mobile shopping experience for our customers—both key goals of our initial mobile strategy,” says Todd Cabell, senior manager of e-commerce at Crutchfield. “As mobile commerce has grown, however, it has developed into an important strategic channel for Crutchfield. We realized that we would need maximum control and flexibility over the mobile user experience. So we decided to build a new mobile site in-house, as this gave us the opportunity to redesign the site from the ground up.”

The home page is constructed around three major actions built into large buttons atop the page that read Shop, Research and Contact. Shop is an obvious choice for a commerce-enabled site. Research was an area key to Crutchfield’s audience of automotive audio enthusiasts and other electronics shoppers.

“Our analytics showed us that many mobile visitors were also looking to access our extensive informational content, which includes more than 1,300 articles and videos. So we knew that ‘Research’ needed to be part of the main site navigation,” Cabell says. “Additionally, it was clear from both analytics and user testing that contacting our advisors was very important to our mobile shoppers. So ‘Contact’ rounds out the main site nav.”

That reasoning explains why some of the graphical elements on the home page do not lead to products to buy.

“We’ve always been more than just an electronics retailer—we’re really obsessive about offering personalized service and expert advice on the products we sell,” Cabell explains. “The mobile site has to demonstrate this just as clearly as our print catalogs and desktop site. So we make a point of highlighting our Outfit My Car shopping tool and a recent video or article on the home page right next to the latest gear and offers.”

Crutchfield has also added a tool unique to smartphones, one that has yet to be used by many other retailers, putting it ahead of the pack. It’s a shipping calculator that uses the GPS technology built into a smartphone to locate a customer and personalize a message about shipping costs, and in many cases include an estimated time of delivery. Crutchfield used the up-and-coming web programming language HTML5 to build the site. Unlike previous versions of the HTML language, HTML5 enables programmers to dig into the innate features of a smartphone, such as GPS, and use them on a site, making a site more like a rich mobile app.

“We’d already seen success testing location-based shipping presentations on the desktop site,” Cabell says. “Since we were using HTML5 to code the new site, we had a pretty straightforward way to leverage the phone’s built-in GPS to do the same on mobile. Ultimately, this is a nice way for us to personalize the mobile experience in a way that is meaningful to our customers.”

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