July 19, 2011, 3:21 PM

SwimOutlet.com dives into mobile commerce

It has eschewed mobile apps for an m-commerce site, which includes live chat.

Lead Photo

SwimOutlet.com offers live chat on its m-commerce site.

Swimwear retailer SwimOutlet.com is diving into the deep end of the mobile commerce pool, building a site in-house that not only enables shoppers to search, browse and buy from their smartphones but also allows them to connect with a customer service representative for a live chat. Live chat on an m-commerce site (see image below) is extremely rare, but it’s a feature that could help convert busy mobile shoppers looking for quick answers into buyers.

“A good segment of SwimOutlet.com’s customers are parents, many of whom are often on noisy pool decks waiting for their kids to finish practice or a competition,” says SwimOutlet.com chief marketing officer Alexander Sienkiewicz. “Getting on the phone with a customer service rep in a noisy environment can be inconvenient during those times, so we are pleased to have integrated mobile live chat functionality.”

SwimOutlet.com used the application programming interface, or API, from its live chat technology provider LivePerson Inc. to integrate the feature into the m-commerce site. It built the site in-house; most retailers in m-commerce use vendors to build and maintain their mobile sites. Like most retailers, though, it started in m-commerce with a site instead of a mobile app. Sites enable greater reach because they can be accessed on any mobile device. But for the time being the merchant has no plans for a mobile app.

“Rather than creating multiple mobile shopping applications for the various smartphone operating systems like iOS and Android , we chose to invest our efforts into doing all that we can with a smartphone web browser,” says Sienkiewicz. “We are extremely happy with functionality we were able to achieve through a mobile browser, and question whether standalone applications are really necessary. In addition, as we approach the era of HTML5, we’ll be able to do a lot more with the browser.”

Programming language HTML5 enables merchants to do much more in mobile because it can be used to dig into a smartphone and use the device’s innate features, like GPS technology and address books, which until now only apps could access.

Shoppers access the m-commerce site by typing the main URL, SwimOutlet.com, into a mobile browser. The merchant’s web servers detect the request is coming from a mobile web browser and redirect the shopper to the mobile-optimized version of the site.

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