August 20, 2010, 2:49 PM

E-retailer foils the candy cops

Blair Candy launches an m-commerce site.

Lead Photo

Blair Candy's mobile site

Earlier this year, traffic from mobile phones—mostly smartphones—to the e-commerce site of Blair Candy Co. Inc. hit 2.6%. For many retailers, hitting or surpassing 2% marks the start of their mobile journeys.

But Blair went mobile for another reason: Surveillance.

For the past year, the number of orders placed on the retailer’s e-commerce site had been dropping while orders placed via its contact center had been rising. The sweets retailer wanted to understand why, especially since it had launched a redesigned e-commerce site earlier this year. So Blair surveyed its repeat customers and found to its surprise that most of the candy fans who switched channels did so because their employers monitored their work computers.

“Everyone was telling us the same thing: They go on a break or take their lunch and call us. When we heard that, we knew we needed to have a better system in place so they can place orders using their phones,” says Pam Macharola, a partner at Blair Candy.

The retailer, using Google Analytics, took a closer look at its web site visitors. Blair found that the majority of its mobile visitors used smartphones, the No. 1 force behind the growth of mobile commerce.

That was good news and bad news.

“Shopping the e-commerce site on a smartphone was way too much work for a customer. It was like squeezing a king-size bed into a studio apartment,” Macharola says. Swiping the touchscreen back and forth and up and down, and pinching to zoom in and zoom out, makes for a terrible customer experience, she says.

But that also meant Blair Candy’s customers already possessed the perfect devices for mobile shopping. So in July the retailer launched its m-commerce site. Consumers access it by typing in, which automatically redirects the shopper using a mobile phone to the mobile-optimized site, which was built and maintained by m-commerce technology provider Unbound Commerce. As part of a deal with Yahoo Stores, Unbound Commerce charges $50 a month for merchants on Yahoo's standard plan, which is the case with Blair Candy, and $125 a month for merchants on Yahoo's premium plan. Blair Candy declined to reveal start-up costs.

Sales already have come in, though Blair declines to give figures.

What’s more, it’s seeing the growth of mobile in other areas of e-retailing, namely e-mail marketing. In August the merchant, which also operates one bricks-and-mortar store and a wholesale business, ran an e-mail sale, sending the promotion to the 88,000 customers on its e-mail list. 30% of customers responding to the e-mail that day came to its site from a mobile phone.

“Mobile is the way of the world—people do everything with these smartphones except get dressed,” Macharola says. “Mobile for us will be big. Some people are saying about mobile commerce, ‘It’s a fad, it’s a fad.’ But no, mobile is the way of life, and it’s going to get bigger.”

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