September 7, 2010, 3:26 PM

An e-retailer scores a mobile commerce hat trick

1st In Video-Music World launches three mobile sites at once.

Lead Photo

Launching a mobile commerce web site may seem like a daunting task. But imagine introducing three sites at once.

That was the approach taken by 1st In Video-Music World Inc., parent company of Your Electronic Warehouse. The company operates web sites for four product lines: consumer electronics, golf equipment, luggage and travel services. With a growing percentage of sales coming through mobile devices, the goal was to get mobile sites up and running quickly. The company was able to develop in-house and launch three sites in May; the fourth mobile site, for the travel company, is in the works for launch later this year.

Based on web site analytics, executives at the company realized that a growing number of customers were viewing the web sites and making purchases via mobile devices, particularly iPhones. “It was a small percentage. But it was enough that we wanted to see if we could grow sales,” says Justin Meats, vice president at 1st In Video-Music World, No. 470 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. He declined to give specific growth figures, but the company was getting 8% of its digital traffic via mobile devices earlier in 2010.

The retail considered engaging commercial software vendors to build the mobile sites, but was put off by how much they charge. The vendors wanted thousands of dollars for the set-up, Meats says, and monthly fees too. These costs all had to be multiplied by three in order to get the trio of mobile sites up and running. “We could not justify the cost from the little amount of mobile sales we were getting,” says Meats.

Added to that, some of the vendors weren’t able to offer a mobile check-out feature. In those cases, mobile shoppers who wanted to make a purchase would be flipped to the full commerce site for check out, making the purchase process cumbersome and putting the sale at risk. “As a retailer, our number one goal is to make a sale,” says Meats.

Instead of outsourcing mobile web site development, 1st In Video-Music World decided to develop the first three web sites in-house. The company had a big advantage because it already had a versatile information technology department, which at one time was set up as a separate enterprise to offer other businesses web development services. It has since been rolled back into the main company.

The mobile sites are lightweight versions of the full web sites, Meats says, so not all of the pages from the full web sites are optimized for mobile use. Key pages that are optimized include products, customer service contacts, order status and the check-out process; general information and product technology pages are not.

The mobile and full web sites all run on a custom-built internal technology platform. A template for the mobile web sites was designed internally and then customized, and both the mobile and full Internet sites draw products from the same database. Each site has its own design, logos and colors. “Once you have the basic features of the web site then you have the basic features for all three,” says Meats. “That way, we could launch all three mobile sites at once.”

Maintenance for the first three mobile sites is simple. A new feature added to one site is automatically added to the others. New products that are added to the e-commerce site automatically appear on the corresponding mobile site.

So far, the golf web site attracts the most mobile traffic, Meats say. This could be due to seasonal variations, with interest in golf peaking during the warm weather months. But Meats also says the conventional golf site has been growing quickly.

Tracking mobile sales has been a problem, however. “It’s more challenging to get the mobile commerce data,” says Meats. The company takes a hybrid approach, using two tracking methods on each page. The standard tracking tool by Google Analytics provides information on visits, unique visitors and page views. For smartphones, the standard Google Analytics tracking code is used to monitor additional information such as conversions.

“We are trying to figure this out,” admits Meats, who adds that the mobile tracking system is constantly being tweaked and revised. “This is all so new. We are refining the way the data is tracked.”



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