June 1, 2011, 10:15 AM

Sponsored Supplement - June 2011

(Page 3 of 9)

Consumers also want to be assured that any discounts offered on the e-commerce site also show up on the mobile site. And they expect the latest inventory information regardless of which channel they are using.

"Synchronization of features and functionality, order management, inventory and other back-office functions that directly impact consumers between the e-commerce and mobile channels can only take place on a fully integrated platform," says Turcsanyi. "To make this marriage happen, the latest mobile technology needs to be running on top of the e-commerce platform."

OrderDynamics' e-commerce platform is offered in a software-as-a-service model so that the vendor hosts the software and the retailer accesses it via the web. The platform includes Dynamic Merchandising, a set of best practices and tactics that guide retailers in creating customized user experiences, how to design intuitive navigation paths, and ways to increase qualified traffic, conversions and average order size.

First things first

While mobile shoppers may want some of the features they're accustomed to finding when accessing a retail site on a PC, that doesn't mean they want all of them. Before blindly recreating the functionality of an e-commerce site on a mobile site, experts recommend that retailers review the analytics of the mobile site to determine how consumers move through the site and why they are shopping the site from their phones.

"Right now, not every consumer using the mobile channel needs a checkout page or a mobile application for their phone," says CDC's Black. "Mobile is an emerging channel and retailers need to remember to tailor their mobile sites to the needs of the consumer, rather than recreating their e-commerce site. It may be best for retailers to walk before they attempt to run in the mobile channel."

Learning as they go is inevitable for retailers in the mobile channel, and already a list of do's and don'ts is emerging. "Retailers should not use Flash when designing a mobile site because it does not display on an iPad or iPhone," says Buzzeo of Ability Commerce. "Retailers should also avoid creating an independent mobile site, because they'll end up maintaining inventory information on multiple sites."

Instead of creating independent mobile sites, retailers should link their mobile sites to their e-commerce sites so inventory and order information is consistent between the sites, Buzzeo adds. What should be distinct, she says, is how the site is presented to the consumer, with the mobile site typically presenting a simpler navigational structure that's better suited to the small screen of a phone.

What retailers and their technology partners are learning about mobile and social commerce is making it possible for retailers to use these fast-growing channels to reach consumers on a more personal level. Retailers that use these channels in ways that delight consumers and provide them real value will win shoppers' trust and loyalty, and keep them coming back.

"Mobile and social networks have become key channels, and retailers need platform providers that can provide the capability to connect with consumers through these channels while maintaining a consistent brand experience with their e-commerce sites," says Turcsanyi of OrderDynamics. "Having the right platform means being able to grow sales." n

The latest techniques for boosting conversion and revenue
E-commerce is booming again—stringing together six consecutive quarters of year-over-year growth—and retailers that want to ride this wave to new heights need to invest in technology that will create a more satisfying shopping experience, drive traffic, boost conversion rates, enhance their brands, and keep consumers coming back.

Finding new technologies that will help persuade web site visitors to complete a purchase is the biggest challenge facing retailers. The average conversion rate for online retailers is only 2.9%, Forrester Research and Shop.org reported in last year's State of Retailing Online report. In other words, 97% of visitors to a site don't buy. That means retailers have plenty of room to boost conversion rates.

A good place to start is keeping consumers in the web store by providing them with the tools to comparison shop. That may sound counter-intuitive. But web retailers must face the reality that more than half of consumers that abandon their shopping carts do so to compare prices elsewhere on the Internet.

Providing comparative pricing information can keep shoppers from leaving the web site and instill confidence that they are getting a good deal. After all, even if a retailer has the lowest price on a product, once a shopper leaves a retailer's site to compare prices the chances are slim that she will return.

"Consumers today come to a site knowing what they want to buy and that they want to get it for the right price, so why not present them with comparative pricing information when they need it most—when they are on the retailer's site, ready to buy," says Miki Balin, CEO and founder of WinBuyer, provider of on-site comparative shopping solutions. "Consumers want to know they are getting the right price."

Driven by data

As important as price is to consumers, it is not the only attribute that keeps them on a retailer's web site. Every page in a retailer's site should be designed to provide information that will lead the consumer to the product she wants and ultimately convert her from browser to buyer. Yet some pages are more effective than others at achieving this goal.

Identifying the pages in need of tweaking requires a deep dive into site analytics. Analytics provide great insights to understand which pages are working well for visitors and which pages are underperforming. Identifying poorly performing pages must be combined with a revenue impact analysis to prioritize any fixes on the site.

"Most retailers take a linear approach to web site design, which means they focus more on the art of site design than the science," says Khalid Saleh, president of Invesp, provider of conversion optimization technology. "When it comes to determining how to adjust site design to boost conversions, retailers need to take a systematic approach to evaluating each page within their site and how best to fix identified shortcomings if they want to optimize conversions."

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