June 24, 2009, 12:00 AM

Designing mobile site or app, retailer must understand phones and consumers

Retailers creating m-commerce sites and apps must clearly comprehend the capabilities of mobile phones and the ways in which consumers want to use them, says Ravi Acharya of Sears, which boasts an m-commerce site and text message marketing.

When conceptualizing a mobile commerce site or application, retailers must clearly understand the capabilities of mobile devices and the ways in which consumers are using the devices to ensure site design and navigation hit the mark, said Ravi Acharya, director of e-commerce at Sears Holdings Corp., which is leading the way in mobile retailing with an m-commerce site (Sears2go.com), mobile app and text message marketing.

M-commerce sites, also known as WAP sites for wireless access protocol, offer reach but are limited by mobile browser capabilities and form factors on the phone; smartphone browsers, however, such as those found on the iPhone or Palm Pre, have improved significantly and can offer many capabilities found on PC web browsers, Acharya said during the session “Creating the right mobile web site design and navigation” at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition.

Mobile apps, software that runs on a smartphone just like software that runs on a PC, give retailers the ability to offer feature-rich, engaging experiences that leverage key, native capabilities of the device, he explained. Sears2go’s iPhone application was launched to make shrewd use of certain platform features such as GPS satellite technology to enable location-based capabilities. The Sears2go app uses GPS to determine location and even weather. So, for example, if a customer is from Chicago, the app will showcase Chicago Cubs shirts.

When it comes to how consumers use mobile hardware and software, Sears, No. 7 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, has found that customers are leveraging the mobile channel in times of need.

“One customer described to us how he used Sears2go to purchase a generator when the power went out during a winter storm in New Hampshire,” Acharya said. “Customers care about quick access to products and reviews. They want to move across multiple channels in a seamless manner, accessing relevant information at all times.”

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