February 24, 2011, 3:38 PM

Drugstore.com adds four new m-commerce sites to its stable

And an iPhone app with bar code scanning is on the way.

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The Top 500 merchant has added four new m-commerce sites, including one for its At His Best brand.

Drugstore.com Inc. is a retailer with an array of brands consumers can shop. And now consumers can shop most of them on their mobile devices.

The web-only merchant, No. 46 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, has launched mobile commerce sites for VisionDirect.com, AtHisBest.com, SexualWellBeing.com and TheNaturalStore.com. These come after the launch last year of m-commerce sites for drugstore.com and Beauty.com. All of the sites were built by m-commerce technology provider Branding Brand Inc. A consumer enters the standard URL for a site into her mobile web browser and device-detection technology at drugstore.com automatically redirects her to the mobile-optimized version of the site.

And drugstore.com is planning a move into mobile apps. It’s developing an iPhone app that will enable consumers to browse, search and buy, add products to the Your List feature, and offer access to other features and functions from the e-commerce and m-commerce sites. What’s more, consumers will be able to scan bar codes using the app. So, for example, a customer could scan the bar code on the box of a beauty product at home or in a bricks-and-mortar store and the app will automatically recognize the product and add it to the customer’s cart.

Drugstore.com is leaning on eBay Inc. during the development of the app, using the marketplace giant’s Red Laser bar code scanning technology and PayPal Mobile payment system. The merchant has not set a release date yet for the iPhone app, but adds it will create versions of the app for all major smartphone platforms.

Drugstore.com has made m-commerce a strategic priority because of the rapidly increasing adoption of smartphones, the mobile web and mobile apps, it says. Already between 1% and 2% of all orders come from its m-commerce sites, it reports. The merchant raked in $456.5 million in total sales in 2010—2% of those orders coming from its mobile sites would amount to nearly $10 million a year.

“We have to be there, where consumers are using the Internet, and it increasingly is on mobile devices. The use of the web via mobile is starting to overtake the use of the web via PCs, and that’s where we’re getting not just repeat business but new customers,” says David Lonczak, chief marketing officer. “And for us as an online pure-play, we have to be relevant to people who shop locally. That’s why having bar code scanning is important. A local store can be out of a product, and a shopper can scan the bar code on the shelf and see that we have it in stock and can ship it to them quickly. And then they may move to us in the future rather than go to the local store.”

Lonczak says the key to a successful m-commerce site is efficient navigation. All of drugstore.com’s m-commerce sites feature a site search box immediately below the brand logo, followed by rotating hero shots and then a deep list of product categories through which a shopper can quickly drill down to the product he seeks.

“This is not a 17-inch screen—this is a form factor that has a 4-inch screen, so navigation is crucial and presentation has to be adjusted to make it easy to use. That is the key,” Lonczak says. “Also in presentation, fonts are bigger, images are of good size, product details have been truncated to make sure it’s easy to consume.”

Drugstore.com will continue its m-commerce push with its impending app and m-commerce sites for more of its brands. It labels mobile commerce an imperative.

“In the same way I need to optimize my site for new web browsers like Chrome or the newest version of Firefox, I need to optimize for mobile devices,” Lonczak says. “This is a new way people are accessing my site and m-commerce really is a must-have.”

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