September 14, 2009, 12:00 AM

Five vendors emerge as m-commerce technology leaders

83.4% of the 114 mobile commerce sites and apps are powered by mobile technology vendors, some of which specialize solely in m-commerce. The leading vendors in m-commerce today are mPoria, CardinalCommerce, Moonshadow eCommerce, Usablenet and Digby.

This summer, the number of retailers creating mobile commerce sites and apps has surged. Today it stands at 114-106 enable shopping and purchasing, while eight do not enable purchases but let mobile shoppers browse product catalogs, locate stores, read customer reviews and more.

And it’s mobile technology vendors that are powering the trend, actively pursuing retailers to make the case for the benefits of entering the mobile sales channel. Only 19 of the 114 mobile sites and apps were built in-house by retailers. The overwhelming majority, 83.4%, of retailers in m-commerce use vendors to build and help maintain their mobile sites and apps. Numerous vendors are building m-commerce sites and apps, but five have emerged as leaders.

One of the first companies to focus exclusively on m-commerce, mPoria Inc., leads the pack with 30 of the 114 mobile retail sites and apps. The m-commerce technology vendor offers a business model that creates basic sites that enable shoppers to drill down, step by step, through a retailer’s product catalog, read short descriptions with product images, place desired items in a shopping cart, and purchase them. It may be a plain template compared with other m-commerce sites, but the simplicity and speed it enables has drawn the most retailers going mobile. But mPoria’s retail clients tend to be smaller shops.

After mPoria, most other vendors offer more robust, visually striking sites and apps with more functionality. And they have attracted larger retailers, including many in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. Coming in second among mobile technology leaders is CardinalCommerce Corp., which powers 17 m-commerce sites. Its clients include Foot Locker Inc. (which operates five sites for different brands), No. 53 in the Internet Retailer Top 500; Skymall Inc., No. 151; Karmaloop LLC, No. 231; DVD Empire, No. 244; and, No. 284.

There’s a tie for third between Moonshadow eCommerce Inc. and Usablenet Inc., both of which have built and help maintain 11 m-commerce sites or apps. Moonshadow specializes primarily in retailers that sell books and music, including BuyCD and Record Town Inc. Usablenet, on the other hand, has been chasing e-commerce heavy hitters and now is the vendor behind the mobile scenes for such retailers as Dell Inc., No. 3 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide; Sears Holdings Corp., No. 7; Victoria’s Secret, No. 19; American Eagle Outfitters Inc., No. 54; and Polo Ralph Lauren, No. 88.

And the fifth company among the mobile technology vendor leaders is Digby, with eight mobile sites or apps. Like mPoria, Digby was one of the first mobile technology vendors to focus exclusively on retail. It began as a mobile shopping mall with a few retailers offering their products through a Digby mobile app. The company, however, morphed into an m-commerce site and app builder, and now counts among its clients Inc., No. 31 in the Internet Retailer Top 500; The Wet Seal Inc., No. 334; Godiva Chocolatier Inc.; and Wirefly.

While numerous other vendors have each built one or two m-commerce sites or apps, mPoria, CardinalCommerce, Moonshadow eCommerce, Usablenet and Digby are the players to watch in mobile commerce technology. They’ve won contracts with some of the biggest names in Internet retailing and report many more m-commerce sites and apps in the pipeline.

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