December 27, 2011, 9:33 AM

Yes, Virginia, consumers will buy big-ticket items via mobile

Dell’s average order value for mobile purchases is 25% higher than online.

Lead Photo

The best-selling laptop is the same on the company's m-commerce site and app as on its e-commerce site.

Dell Inc. couldn’t be happier with its app. It launched an Android app version of its complete online store Aug. 25 and an iPhone app Oct. 10. Since then sales have been significant, says Dell, which declines to reveal exact numbers.

“We’ve been really pleased,” says Brandon McGee, director, global mobile, at Dell. “From a download and revenue perspective, the Android app is performing extremely well and reaching its goals. The iPhone app is performing twice as well as Android. So far we have seen that the iPhone user is a bit of a different customer, but it’s too early in our deployment and analysis to reach conclusions.”

Interestingly, the average order value for mobile orders is 25% higher than that for online orders, McGee reports.

“Our No. 1 seller on mobile is the Inspiron 15R laptop; it also is our best seller online,” McGee says. The laptop ranges in price from $550 to $800. “The average order value and the types of products being purchased tell me that people really are, as we expected from our research, comfortable making big-ticket purchases through their smartphones.”

Dell is No. 49 in the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Top 300. In 2010, through its m-commerce web site alone, Dell reached sales of $9.4 million, Internet Retailer estimates. Dell launched the m-commerce site, built by Usablenet Inc., in 2009. In 2011, Internet Retailer projects Dell will hit sales of $13.4 million. McGee attributes the early success of the mobile apps, built in-house, to a secure, streamlined user interface.

“The No. 1 factor is a very strong, secure solution,” he says. A “Secure Cart Guarantee” appears at the bottom of product pages; lock icons appear on checkout buttons. “We prominently display and promote that throughout the app. This is a secure channel and it gives them that peace of mind making purchases on smartphones. The other part is the execution of the user interface. Very clean, very simple, very easy to use. That conveys a professional experience that gives them that peace of mind and that comfort.”

McGee says content is another key to success. The mobile apps include all the product information and technical specifications found on the desktop site. And, he adds, putting customer reviews in the palm of a consumer’s hand is important because reviews help clinch sales.

“We’re giving customers that same experience they get on the desktop with the critical content to make the purchasing decision,” he says.

The mobile apps also include tools designed to aid customers in the sometimes complex process of buying a computer. The Compare feature enables a shopper to pick up to three Dell products to conduct side-by-side comparisons of features and functions. A shopper swipes up and down the screen to see technical specifications and prices. The Shop Assist tool is for customers unsure of exactly what they’re looking for.

“We ask them a few questions about systems: should it be portable, primarily web and e-mail, looking for something for video and photo editing, core lifestyle questions,” McGee explains. “Based on the answers we recommend up to three systems that would be perfect to meet those needs. Compare and Shop Assist have received very positive feedback; they are tools that fit well in mobile.”

Dell promotes its mobile commerce site and apps via Facebook, Twitter and blogs, and in e-mail marketing pieces. In December it sent out an e-mail promoting its mobile apps and the result was a 20% lift in app downloads compared with a regular day. “We have integrated mobile promotional content on Dell.com,” he says. “We have included calls to action on print materials, as well as cross-promoting apps on the m-commerce site. It really is traditional marketing with a fully integrated execution.”

Dell also uses text messages in its marketing efforts. McGee says he was very pleased with the results of a pre-holiday offer: text OFFER to short code 335548 and receive a $100 discount for some of Dell’s most popular computers.

Next up for McGee in his mobile workshop is a tablet app. Tablet ownership is soaring and he knows having something special for Dell shoppers on tablets is a priority.

“We have a robust roadmap of solutions we will be implementing and tablet apps are on the roadmap,” he says. “It is an area that is growing by leaps and bounds in the mobile commerce industry and we are interested in being a part of it.”

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