September 19, 2011, 4:44 PM

Going with an m-commerce vendor has its pros and cons, Forrester says

Retailers should ensure a vendor can quickly achieve short-term goals.

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From the earliest days of mobile commerce, many retailers have turned to technology providers that specialize in mobile commerce for help in building an m-commerce site or app. Today this is the most popular route to going mobile in retail: 33% of retailers in mobile commerce have hired a vendor that specializes in m-commerce technology to help get them there, according to the “The State of Retailing Online 2011,” a Shop.org study conducted by Forrester Research Inc. Fewer retailers opted to use an e-commerce vendor, built m-commerce in-house or selected another option.

“Mobile commerce has matured from a nascent channel adopted by a few progressive companies to a critical commerce touchpoint. Today, mobile offerings must be both fully transactional and support the customer’s end-to-end experience with a retailer,” writes Forrester Research analyst Peter Sheldon in a new report titled “Mobile Commerce Solutions for Retail.” “E-business leaders need trusted solutions and technology upon which to grow a scaling and increasingly complex mobile channel. The search for the right vendor is daunting: The range of solution types, pricing models and capabilities vary widely.”

M-commerce systems managed entirely by a vendor that easily take elements of an existing e-commerce site and transform them into an m-commerce site are popular among retailers entering the mobile channel, Sheldon says. Vendors that offer these systems tend to have a flexible, a la carte approach to buying into their technology, which means that most retailers can find a system that enables them to achieve short-term goals, he adds.

There are pros and cons, though, to going with an m-commerce vendor.

“The merits: Flexible ownership and operational models enable retailers to rapidly launch a mobile commerce offering, while taking advantage of regular platform updates to quickly advance functionality for their customers,” Sheldon says. “The drawbacks: Entering into a term contract on a proprietary technology platform may restrict a retailer’s ability to keep up with mobile innovations in the rapidly evolving world of mobile commerce.”

When searching for a mobile commerce technology provider, retailers should ensure a vendor can quickly and easily meet short-term goals, such as getting a fully transactional site up and running, and make certain, especially in the case of smaller retailers, that a vendor can achieve these goals at a low upfront cost with little or no work for the merchant’s in-house I.T. team, Sheldon says.

Once a vendor is found, a retailer should develop a close relationship with the company to ensure incremental changes can be made with ease and new capabilities can be developed when necessary, Sheldon says. He adds that retailers he spoke with for the report said it was commonplace to have daily conference calls with their mobile vendors.

And merchants with an m-commerce strategy and vendor in place must be sure to align their m-commerce and e-commerce teams, if they are not one in the same, Sheldon advises. “Aligned roadmaps, rollout plans, collaboration and testing are required to ensure a seamless cross-touchpoint journey for the consumer and to minimize the risk that changes to the e-commerce site could negatively affect the mobile user experience.”

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