Dial Up a Mobile Commerce Strategy

Mobile commerce is more than just a shrunken version of a traditional Website. I.merchant’s Tim Parry sat down with Andy Nulman, the president of mobile media company Airborne Mobile, to talk about how the two formats are similar, yet different.

i.merchant: If I am a merchant with an e-commerce channel, why do I want to add a mobile channel?

NULMAN: Mobile, while potent, is not for everybody. You want to add mobile to your mix if there is a reason to communicate with your customers on an immediate basis. If you’re the type of merchant who can offer fast-changing deals, and can make it beneficial for your customers to hear from you instantly, mobile’s for you. It’s important to remember mobile is not another channel for funneling e-mail blasts.

i.merchant: For a merchant, is it just as easy as adding a .mobi suffix? Or are we talking an entire new platform?

NULMAN: Adding a .mobi is a tactic, not a panacea. A mobile site can still be accessed without that suffix. More important, if you choose to go the mobile Web site route, you have to minimize the content and focus on the basics. Make sure the content fits not only on the screen of a mobile device, but also caters to the reduced attention span of a mobile customer.

i.merchant: So are we talking about retailers getting entire catalog lines inside someone’s mobile device? Or will it be more similar to e-mail marketing, where a few products will be teased?

NULMAN: Less indeed is more. In Japan, you have full-catalog, full-blown mobile commerce sites, and they work well. But this is not Japan. You must start slowly and first prove your concept and make customers comfortable shopping–and not even necessarily buying–on mobile. With this careful approach, your sales should increase alongside their comfort level.

i.merchant: Assuming the advent of mobile is similar to the early days of e-commerce, what mistakes can be learned from the past and carried into this new channel?

NULMAN: Remember that not even Amazon.com was built in a day. What you’re trying to do here is make customers commit while outside a traditional retail environment. What works in store and now online will most likely not work on mobile. Take a walk outside and see how consumers interact with their mobile devices, and tailor your offers to this behavior. Limit the information and increase the reasons why they should act immediately.

i.merchant: Are credit card transactions as safe when they are going through a mobile platform vs. an e-commerce Website?

NULMAN: They will be, but we will face the same type of consumer distrust reticence we saw in the early days of the Web. Second step will see us store our card numbers in our device for one-click transactions, and eventually, most purchases will go right onto your carrier bill, as they do in Japan. This could be the next big commerce battleground…between the banks, the credit card companies and the carriers.

i.merchant: How long do you think it will take for merchants to implement mobile–will it be an all-at-once or gradual adoption rate?

NULMAN: If they’re smart, it will be gradual. Take your time–we lived this long without it, so let’s find the right way to live with it

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