September 30, 2011, 12:00 AM

Amazon conquers the mobile universe

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Still, shoppers walking around stores with smartphones represent a threat as well as an opportunity, says Tilzer of Staples. A customer in a Staples store can check prices at Office Depot, and vice versa. "It forces us to continue to challenge ourselves to make shopping even easier and provide even more value to our customers' business," he says.

Onward to tablets

Some merchants are upping their mobile game beyond most others by taking the next step after sites and smartphone apps—tablet apps. And today, that's an iPad app as Apple's mega-popular device by far dominates the tablet market.

Amazon.com has released two apps for the iPad, one a standard version of its store optimized for presentation on the iPad and the other, dubbed Windowshop, a version of the store that emphasizes browsing by 40 categories. Shoppers view Windowshop with the iPad in horizontal orientation. It features product images across the screen and enables shoppers to swipe the screen to go up, down, left or right through myriad listings. Shoppers can complete purchases through both apps.

"The way consumers use tablets is generally different from the way they use their mobile phones," says Hall of Amazon.com. "Oftentimes they are in a more relaxed setting—on the couch—with more time to spend. Because of this, we've developed apps like Amazon Windowshop that take advantage of the size and unique versatility of the iPad to provide a flowing, more discoverable browse experience."

Crutchfield soon will be unveiling an iPad app. Like many retailers with iPad apps, it will be emphasizing its product catalog.

"The genesis for it comes out of the digital version of our catalog we provide now. It's an outgrowth of that and the experience we've had with the mobile site," says Cabell at Crutchfield.

"Our catalog is one of the things that makes Crutchfield different in our space. We're trying to meet customers where they are engaging with us and provide a unique experience that is really optimized for the tablet. And to take advantage of the new technology and new design techniques to really make our print catalog come alive in a new, more interactive way."

Now is the time

Whether it's through tablet apps, smartphone apps or m-commerce sites, retailers, travel companies and tickets sellers in The Mobile Commerce Top 300 are raking it in, showing that mobile commerce is quickly becoming a mainstream activity.

"Mobile commerce will become commonplace among consumers," says Grover of Buy.com. "I expect it to be larger than PC purchases."

The explosive sales of web-enabled smartphones in recent years, and of tablets since the introduction of Apple's iPad, lend credence to that bold prediction, as does the rapid increase in mobile sales. Mobile commerce is only going to get bigger, and now is the time to be a player, and aim for the kind of success that leads to membership in The Mobile Commerce Top 300.

bill@verticalwebmedia.com

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