November 26, 2008, 12:00 AM

Mobile retail sites get a less-than-ringing endorsement from Yankee Group

The research and consulting firm has some nice things to say about the mobile web sites of eBay, and Best Buy. But not one of the 32 web sites of retailers, airlines and financial institutions received a passing grade in the study.

Mobile commerce sites have a long way to go and could be easily improved with a few simple steps, such as making them easy to find and prioritizing the content likely to be useful to someone on a mobile phone, according to a report from research and consulting firm Yankee Group.

The consulting firm looked at 32 mobile sites of retailers, airlines and financial institutions-and not one managed a passing grade of 70. Bank of America and automotive portal Edmunds had the highest score of 67 according to Yankee Group’s criteria, which include design, usability and utility for mobile phone users. Overall, financial services sites scored an average of 57, retailers 54 and airlines 50 in the report “The Best of the Anywhere Web.”

“Although most of these web sites are functional, few provide anything specifically designed for mobile users, instead relying on reformatted desktop content,” writes report author Carl Howe. “The average score of 54 shows just what these sites are: average.”

Among retailers, and Best Buy provided the broadest shopping experiences, according to the report. Amazon was given credit for prioritizing mobile content such as music files over hard goods like books and CDs. The report praised Best Buy for providing clickable links to its stores. The mobile site of eBay allows bidders to track auctions and shows the value of focusing a mobile site on just a few goals, the study says.

The report notes that mobile sites are not easy to find because there is no standard format for addresses comparable to the format of the PC-based Internet. Instead, mobile addresses come in a range of formats-such as, and it hard for a consumer to find a company’s site on a mobile phone. Howe urges mobile site operators to make sure all the likely addresses point to the company’s mobile web site.

He also says mobile sites should prioritize the kind of information that would be most useful for consumers using mobile phones, associate keypad numbers with mobile web pages to make navigation easier, and to use standard programming tools like XHTML.

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