October 12, 2011, 9:15 AM

Mobile Commerce Forum Report: Two retailers move to the next stage of m-commerce

REI and Aveda create new mobile sites and apps.

Lead Photo

Jeff Klonowski

While many retailers are just getting started in mobile commerce, two retailers with a couple of years of mobile experience described yesterday their next steps to reach mobile shoppers in a session at the Mobile Commerce Forum 2011 in Houston.

Retail chain Recreational Equipment Inc. will soon unveil a redesigned mobile commerce site and two new mobile apps, said Jeff Klonowski, manager of e-commerce mobile. And Aveda, a brand of cosmetics brand Estee Lauder Cos. Inc., launched its new web and mobile sites last week and will introduce its first iPhone app in November, reported Rachael Ostrom, executive director of social engagements for Aveda. Estee Lauder is No. 128 in the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce 300 Guide and REI is No. 159.

Klonowski and Ostrom spoke at a session entitled “The challenges to stand-out mobile site design” with Lauren Freedman, president of The E-tailing Group Inc., an e-commerce consulting firm.

Freedman reported on her firm’s assessment this year of the mobile sites of 50 major retailers. She said those retailers collectively did the best job of letting mobile shoppers find a store and contact customer service, a poorer job of buying a gift and checking in-store inventory from a mobile device, and were in between in terms of making checkout fast and convenient.

Ostrom noted that Aveda redesigned its mobile site to take into account the wider use today of touchscreen devices, such as Apple Inc.’s iPad, which had not been introduced when the brand unveiled its mobile site in December 2009. The new Aveda mobile site has larger buttons in place of links, to make it easier to navigate on a touchscreen. The new mobile site also has video, which the earlier version lacked.

A major goal of the redesign was to give Aveda shoppers more of the kind of high-touch experience they expect in a salon or on the Aveda.com e-commerce site. For instance, the new mobile site lets a consumer answer a few questions about her hair or skin type in order to received customized product recommendations, just as she would get from a stylist or an experienced store associate. “The feel  of having that advisor with you on the phone is the overall goal of the redesign of the site,” Ostrom said of the new mobile-optimized Aveda site.

She also noted that while the new iPhone app will use the same colors for logos and buttons as on the mobile site, the background of the iPhone app will be black, unlike the white backdrop of the mobile site. Such subtle differences, she said, will help when a consumer who selects a product on the app and clicks to buy is transferred to the mobile site to complete the checkout. “We want to make sure you’re grounded as to where you are,” Ostrom explained.

Driving these mobile initiatives, she said, is steady growth in mobile sales and traffic. Mobile represents 2-3% of Aveda’s e-commerce sales, 7% is iPad transactions are included, and 8% of page views, she said. But that’s only going to increase, she added, as 13% of page views from new customers are from mobile devices.

For REI, which launched its mobile site in the fall of 2009, two goals for its new mobile are to make the store locator—the most popular feature on the existing mobile site—more prominent and to add information on sales and promotion that is not provided on the current site, Klonowski said. While the current mobile site’s home page is all text, he showed an image of the new mobile home page that features a photo along with text promoting the new fall line.

REI is also taking steps to deliver its weekly “gear mail” marketing e-mail more effectively on mobile devices. Klonowski said that means making sure the e-mail message itself renders properly on mobile screens and that any links in the e-mail take the shopper to a mobile-optimized landing page.

REI introduced its iPhone app on Thanksgiving Day 2010 and an Android app early this year, complementing an earlier mobile app that provided snow and ski reports. The retailer will soon unveil a new, faster ski condition app for both iPhone and Android, this one developed in-house instead of by an outside company. In addition, Klonowski said, REI is working on a new app with U.S. Bank, the issuer of the REI Visa credit card, that will make it easy for consumers to apply for an REI Visa card and for cardholders to check their accounts and pay their bills.

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