May 5, 2011, 11:00 AM

Great execution right out of the mobile gate

Retailers can learn a lot from The Container Store’s new site.

Lead Photo

The retailer's home page keeps things simple, an important quality in the world of m-commerce.

The Container Store Inc. debuted its mobile commerce site this week and I must say I was really impressed with its design and navigation, especially coming from a merchant making its first step into the mobile realm. The retailer broke with some common m-commerce site design practices and offers its customers choice in their mobile web experience and ever-present places to turn to make a change in direction or seek help. It’s a great site, and here’s why.

First, the home page is as simple as simple can be. It breaks with the practice of displaying a long list of categories from which to choose. Rather, it presents five primary elements. Just below the logo atop the home page is a site search box, a critical component in m-commerce as many mobile shoppers have something in mind and want to get in and out fast. Below the site search box is a big hero shot, adding color to the page.

Side by side below the hero are two boxes, one for Shop By Category, which then leads you to that long list of categories, and Organize with Elfa, their best-selling brand. And below those boxes is a button, Find A Store Location, leading you to a store locator page, another critical component to mobile for people on the go looking to get to bricks and mortar; however, The Container Store should have included GPS functionality rather than just ZIP code entry. Overall, it should be noted that a simple home page boosts site performance: Keeping the number of kilobytes low minimizes the number of seconds needed to download the page.

The site, built by mobile commerce and social commerce technology provider Usablenet Inc., features the site search box and the store locator button at the top and bottom, respectively, of every page. That is very smart since they are two of the most important elements of any m-commerce site. It also features a persistent shopping cart atop every page. And below the store locator button on every page is a small Contact Us link. This is a very smart strategy. It enables a mobile shopper to call The Container Store for assistance or fill out a simple e-mail form. In my opinion, the retailer has made an error on this page, though, in not using click-to-call with the phone number. Click-to-call is easy functionality to add, and it saves the customer time and effort in dialing the number.

Listings of products on category pages feature what looks like a drop-down menu that enables shoppers to sort by Most Relevant, Price Low to High, Price High to Low, Top Rated and Best Sellers. The menu doesn’t drop down but instead calls up a wheel (think slot machine) that customers can swipe up and down to get to their choice. And the product listings feature big pictures and customer ratings, which are very helpful when drilling down to a specific product. The product information pages feature very large images relative to the size of the small screen. The larger the image, the better customers can see the product’s details. These pages also feature an option to pick up the product at the nearest store by entering a ZIP code. It even includes real-time product availability.

The Container Store did a tremendous job for a freshman effort. It’s exemplary and stands out in the crowd. Whether you’re already in m-commerce or planning a site, you should pull out your smartphone and take a look at ContainerStore.com.

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