The increasing pervasiveness of iPhones and their competitors has done what BlackBerries did not: create consistent demand for mobile Web access.
That trend is only going to intensify as smartphones become more and more common. After several years of saying, “Next year will be the year of mobile,” it appears 2010 may be that pivot point. As more and more mobile phones get 3G and WiFi functionality, jumping online to view a Website becomes a common activity.
Today’s mobile devices are decently capable of rendering a basic Website. But optimizing the mobile browsing experience will create higher levels of user satisfaction, leading to better site performance.
So how would you optimize m-commerce? Here are some basic guidelines for putting the right strategy in place.
Know your audience
A good mobile offering will, of course, be accessible to nearly all mobile users. But the experiences can be custom-crafted to speak to different users. Knowing how your site is being accessed will help you make user-oriented choices.
If you have a traveling sales force that accesses online data regularly, chances are you’ll want to optimize your site specifically for BlackBerry users, empowering your internal team to make the most of your site. If your brand speaks to younger or more visually oriented people, the iPhone will be your primary concern.
Design for use
The mobile version of a Website should, by its nature, not try to cram all the activities of a full-browser site into its pages. Instead, the items most important to on-the-go users should be emphasized, and the lesser items omitted entirely.
The Amazon.com home page has roughly 150 individual links. The Amazon.com mobile home, on the other hand, has 22. Amazon has stripped out the many upsell and cross-sell functions to focus on the core user experience, optimized for small-screen devices.
At the same time, two of those 22 links are to launch the full-browser version of Amazon.com—it appears many of their users want the complete experience.
Develop what you need
Chasing the hot new thing isn’t always a sound strategy. Your brand may not need an iPhone app, for example, unless you have a product or service that can be merchandised through it. Why create a resource that people won’t use?
Of course, a good iPhone app can be a clever marketing tie-in that entertains users and reinforces the brand. As noted above, playing to your audience (known and potential) will give you the feedback you need to make the right decision.
Monitor usage patterns
The most important step in mobile development is keeping an eye on how the sector evolves. Mobile browsing is such a new segment that adaptability is a key to your site’s mobile success.
For 2010, you’ll be designing a version of your site that helps a forward-thinking minority of your traffic. But that group has doubled in size in the past year and may double again in short order. With that expansion comes shifting priorities and requests, and your mobile site should evolve to meet those changing needs.
Take a look at your Website metrics: By now, you’re probably getting 2% to 5% of your total traffic from mobile devices without even trying. Break down that data by device type to know how to prioritize development in the near term (I have seen iPhones owning anywhere from 55% to 85% of a site’s mobile traffic).
Once live, keep an eye on usage patterns, and use that feedback to develop future versions of the mobile site. Maybe you’ll discover people are using the mobile site to price-compare products while they’re out shopping. If so, use that opportunity to present instant discounts and mobile coupons to encourage conversion and loyalty. Other usage trends will inspire additional ideas and solutions.
This is the most important consideration for mobile. Your mobile offering should be different from what’s on your main site. From communication to functionality, it’s a unique space with its own needs and opportunities.
Remaining open to suggestion will allow you to craft a mobile solution that helps your audience while extending the success and impact of your brand.
David Wertheimer firstname.lastname@example.org is director of strategy for e-commerce agency Alexander Interactive.