December 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

Two Paths

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And getting in early can mean staying ahead of the competition.

“We figured out early on what works and what doesn’t,” Ranford says. “Now that mobile is a revenue-generating channel for us, we have already done the heavy lifting work while the competition is still trying to figure things out.”

But for retailers starting now in m-commerce, when e-commerce players are starting to offer mobile functionality, other factors begin to come into play.

“The main factor was we we’re very comfortable working with them already,” says Brown of of his decision to work with Netconcepts.

A blended future?

While there is a clear choice today, convergence is likely in the years ahead, some say. E-commerce vendors are working to catch up with m-commerce vendors in mobile technology, and mobile vendors are likely to seek out e-commerce suppliers for access to their existing retailer clients.

“I’m confident niche m-commerce players like Digby and Usablenet are going to grow and adapt even in the face of some of the big e-commerce vendors honing their mobile offerings and possibly cannibalizing some of the niche business,” says Ranford of “But what will happen is your Digbys and Usablenets and your huge e-commerce companies eventually will figure out a good way to work well together.”

The future may lie in teamwork, agrees Keith Lietzke, chief marketing officer at m-commerce technology vendor Unbound Commerce. Everyone looking for an e-commerce system now will expect it to do m-commerce, he contends, which creates an opportunity for single-source e-commerce vendors to fold into their offerings the expertise of best-of-breed m-commerce vendors. In fact, Unbound Commerce already has done so, integrating its system with that of Endeca Technologies Inc. to create an m-commerce site for multichannel retailer K&L; Wine Merchants.

“Ultimately I see an opportunity to work with those vendors so they can incorporate our technology into their stack,” Lietzke says. “Which is why we’ve put a premium on developing a mobile framework that integrates nicely with other pieces of e-commerce infrastructure, such as content management, shopping cart and merchandising engines.”

In the meantime...

Whatever the future may hold, retailers looking to jump into mobile commerce today have a decision to make. What they decide will depend in large measure on their goals, says Walker of Forrester Research.

“Are you looking to do an early trial to understand the opportunity around mobile commerce to get started and get some learnings about what drives success, or are you looking for a game-changing, different opportunity here?” Walker asks. “That will color who you should look into working with.”

Today, m-commerce technology vendors have the experience and 170 retail sites and apps to prove they know the mobile channel. E-commerce vendors are only now getting into the game, but they bring their own set of benefits. The technology landscape is certain to evolve as more established e-commerce players bolster their mobile expertise. For now, the choice remains between smaller, more focused mobile experts and the larger e-commerce vendors that retailers already know.

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