May 29, 2012, 4:35 PM

It’s time for European retailers to dive into mobile commerce, experts say

12% of Europeans have made a mobile purchase—retailers need to be ready.

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12% of Europeans have engaged in mobile commerce, making purchases from their smartphones or tablets, according to Forrester Research Inc. As this number grows, it becomes ever more important for European retailers and other businesses to get into the game, even if they're not entirely sure how, experts said today at a panel during the Open Mobile Summit in London.

"50% of our traffic is on mobile. The more we give the customer on mobile, the more they use," said John Sullivan, director of information technology at the Gondola Group, a chain restaurant operator that runs various brands in the U.K. and Ireland. "You just need to get out there and do some experimentation to find out what your customer wants."

Such efforts can get hampered by fast-evolving mobile commerce technology, said Ian Cranna, vice president of marketing at Starbucks, which has handled 40 million m-commerce transactions at the point of sale since January 2011, Cranna reports.

"Just focus on what the experience needs to be," he said. "See your way through the technology through the customer's eyes and make an experience of those things that are working as opposed to first focusing on the more challenging things that are hard to use."

The No. 1 merchant in the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Top 300 agreed that testing the waters is key, as long as the end result is satisfactory.

"Innovation and experimentation are super important," said Howard Gefen, director of worldwide mobile business development at Amazon.com Inc. "But you have to get your core business stuff right. People will never be upset if it comes faster or costs less. They will be upset if they order something and it doesn't come on time. So many people are moving to mobile so quickly they are going to try your service and if they have a bad experience with it they will move on to someone else. Experimentation is important, but you have to get it right."

Gefen says Amazon, for example, looked at its time-sensitive daily deals and believed they would be a perfect fit for a mobile app.

"We have a deals app which extends our deals to customers who want all their deals all the time so they don't miss them, and so they can purchase them from the phone as soon as they come out," Gefen said. "Listen to customers and make mobile fast and convenient."

And be fast about it, said Danielle Papagapiou, Clubcard blueprint director at British online grocer Tesco. "Cut straight to the R&D world," she said, "then make it physical and start showing people what you're talking about."

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