June 22, 2011, 4:09 PM

Does the “m” really matter when promoting a mobile site?

Why say “m.URL.com” when “URL.com” automatically takes you there?

Lead Photo

The "m" appears in the URL above; it's the base page of the m-commerce site. But just typing in NYandCompany.com alone takes a shopper to the mobile site.

Many retailers in announcing their new mobile commerce sites use the m-dot URL address convention. They proudly pronounce that m.Retailer.com is now available on web-enabled phones. But in reality, for the most part, these retailers have in place auto-detection and auto-redirection technology that renders that “m” pointless.

With the two aforementioned common technologies in place, when a shopper types in the regular URL on a smartphone, the retailer’s web server detects the server request is coming from a mobile device and automatically redirects that shopper away from the e-commerce site and to the m-commerce site. Indeed, you will likely see the m-dot address pop up in the URL window during the redirect. But the point is, why tell customers they have to go to a different web address for mobile when they don’t have to?

That’s the nice thing about auto-redirection. It knows what you have in your hands and serves you the optimal experience. And, just to be on the safe side, most retailers include a link on the m-commerce home page that reads something like “View the full web site” for those smartphone users who want the standard version. So what’s with the “m”?

I guess it can be a marketing tool, to more clearly show that a mobile site exists. And it’s easier to just show an m-dot URL than it is to explain auto-detection and auto-redirection technologies. But can’t you just say “Type in Retailer.com on your smartphone”? Or show a screen shot of the home page to really make an impression on consumers?

Perhaps there is a large group of consumers out there who know to check for mobile sites by typing “m” before the rest of the URL. They try it out to see if their favorite sites have mobile-optimized versions. But, at the same time, I would think if they’re savvy enough to know that, they should also know they could just type in the standard URL alone and they’ll almost certainly get a mobile site if there is one to be had. No?

I can’t figure it out. What would you do? Would you promote the m-dot version of the URL, or would you go without the superfluous “m”? Please tell me below, as I’d love to hear the reasoning, especially for use of the “m.”

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