July 28, 2011, 11:38 AM

HTML5 will revolutionize the mobile web

Retailers should be using elements of the language today.

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The big selling point of HTML5, the latest version of the web site programming language, is this: It enables developers to create mobile web sites that are akin to mobile apps. HTML5, a work in progress, was conceived to address the fact that consumers are accessing web sites on devices other than desktop PCs and laptops. It’s all about greatly enhancing the mobile web experience.

Mobile apps provide richer, better experiences than mobile web sites—I don’t think anyone would argue that. It’s because they reside on a smartphone or tablet and can make use of all the innate features and functions of the device. Until HTML5 came along, mobile web sites could not do that. Now they can—not all of the features and functions, but some, and the list is growing longer.

Retailers with m-commerce sites need to be incorporating HTML5 design today. It’s a real differentiator that makes a site stand out in the crowd. I remember the first time a mobile web site asked me for permission to activate the GPS on my iPhone—I was stunned. I didn’t know sites could do that. And that was my introduction to HTML5 in action.

The geolocation aspect of HTML5 is actually a good place to start. The store locator is one of the most popular features of an m-commerce site. Get the GPS technology on smartphones cooking for you to make it easier for shoppers to find nearby stores. Some in mobile commerce like to call that “frictionless.” Meaning no typing or other activity required in order to complete a task. There’s no friction whatsoever in GPS-enabled store locators. They do everything for the consumer, and in the blink of an eye.

I think the biggest development with HTML5 is its ability to enable mobile web sites to play video without the use of Flash. Apple Inc. refuses to budge on its embargo of Flash, and the number of consumers with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices is gigantic. HTML5 is the key to getting video content to these consumers; consequently, retailers should be considering how they can employ HTML5 to deploy the very effective technology that is online video.

Most of the retailers I’ve spoken with on the subject say HTML5 is a godsend. Carol Steinberg oversees mobile commerce at ShopNBC.com and has told me HTML5 really makes one stop and think about whether a site-plus-app strategy is the way to go or if a retailer can just go with a site and save the resources required to maintain multiple mobile platforms. She’s thinking about it.

Personally I think apps play an important role in m-commerce for many, but not all, merchants. But at the same time, m-commerce sites are the most popular avenue for mobile shoppers and should be as sleek and useful as possible. HTML5 is making that possible. You don’t want to fall behind when it comes to understanding and effectively using this powerful tool.

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