November 21, 2009, 12:00 AM

Mobile Commerce

Five retailers blazing a new trail

Mobile Commerce

This year, for the first time, Internet Retailer honors merchants that excel in mobile commerce. And the line-up, five out of the 116 retailers with 156 m-commerce sites and apps, is a gallery of powerhouses and pioneers.

Mobile allows consumers to buy in new ways. A forgetful husband on the morning train suddenly remembers it’s his anniversary. He whips out his smartphone, opens up his app, touches Same Day Delivery, touches long-stem roses, touches Add To Cart, and checks out fast by signing into his existing account without leaving the app.

“More than likely people won’t be in front of a PC at those times they are most able to be a consumer. So their mobile phone becomes key in a new commerce experience,” says Steve Yankovich, vice president of platform business solutions and mobile at eBay.

And eBay knows this well, as it’s on track to rack up $500 million in sales in 2009 through its m-commerce site and mobile app. The mobile channel lets customers bid anytime, anywhere, making mobile a great fit for eBay.

Sears’ mobile app uses a smartphone’s GPS technology to pinpoint a shopper’s location and showcase relevant products-a Bears jersey in Chicago during football season, for example. Amazon’s app enables shoppers to snap a picture of, say, a movie poster, and see products related to that movie.

And SkyMall lets consumers shop at over 500 miles per hour. When a shopper downloads SkyMall’s app, she gets the app and the entire product catalog. So she can browse, search and add to cart in the air, and purchase as soon as she lands.

These are five highly innovative merchants in retailing’s emerging fourth sales channel.
Flowers on the go Inc.’s sleek and easy-to-use mobile app begins with a practical list with colorful icons: Birthday, Get Well, Anniversary, Same Day Delivery and more. Mobile shoppers typically want to make a decision quickly, says Kevin Ranford, director of web marketing. A pioneer, launched its m-commerce site four years ago. “We have been able to continually build upon learnings and optimize our mobile offerings,” Ranford says. “Further, a holistic approach of providing our shoppers with both mobile web and mobile apps-for the iPhone, Blackberry and Android-provides us with a broad reach in the mobile channel.” And shoppers are responding: Almost 300,000 shop the site and/or app each month, The Nielsen Co. says, and mobile sales are up 200% year over year.
The mobile pioneer 

Talk about being ahead of the curve: launched its m-commerce site in 2001. Today it operates the site, a mobile app, and a text message program that enables shoppers to make purchases via texts-no need for a web site. Mobile site and app shoppers link their accounts to the mobile channel to enable the Holy Grail of m-commerce, single-click checkout. Amazon’s mobile experience is crisp and sleek, and much like the process of shopping at And it offers product recommendations specific to shoppers, customer reviews, a plethora of product information and, unique to the mobile app, the ability to visually search for related products by taking a picture of an item with a mobile phone’s camera. Amazon Mobile was ahead of the game in 2001 and remains so today.
Mobile millions 

4.6 million mobile app downloads, 450,000 unique visitors per day, and closing in on $500 million in sales for 2009. That says it all about eBay’s knockout m-commerce site and mobile app. What eBay has said to the industry this year is that mobile commerce can be done, and when done well, can drive revenue. “More than likely people won’t be in front of a PC at those times they are most able to be a consumer,” says Steve Yankovich, vice president of platform business solutions and mobile. “So their mobile phone becomes key in a new commerce experience.” The site and app enable shoppers to keep an eye on auctions like never before. But it’s not all about auctions, eBay notes, as there’s about a 50/50 split between sales of auctioned items and fixed-priced products.
Satellite shopping 

Sears’ mobile app does something awfully unique: product recommendations via satellite. When a shopper opens the app, it asks to use the smartphone’s GPS. The shopper selects Allow, and up pops a home screen with products recommended specifically for that customer in that location. How about a Reebok Chicago Bears Cap during football season for a Chicago shopper? Oh, and by the way, it’s 53 degrees and cloudy outside, the app lets the shopper know. Atop the screen are buttons for deals, coupons and stores, and below are buttons for search, browse and cart. The app and its mobile site counterpart,, both offer a vibrant mobile experience. “Thus far, our customers’ response to our efforts has been very promising,” says Imran Jooma, senior vice president of e-commerce.
Tray table store 

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