Amanda Massello, Associate eCommerce Strategist

Think tablet first. This certainly seemed to be the surprise of the last year according to the panel of mobile experts at Demandware’s XChange Customer Conference in Las Vegas. Many ecommerce brands are now capturing more sales from tablet than mobile, with larger average order values.

The average traffic sent by device to ecommerce sites:

  • Tablet – 6.52%
  • Mobile – 5.35%

The swipe interface of tablet has really proven to be a disruptor in terms of experience, which most agree to be the reason behind tablets’ ever increasing share.

But there’s more to the story – it’s part of a larger “second screen phenomenon” that’s occurring nationwide. Consumers are using their phones and tablets while at home watching TV. In fact, more than 8 out of 10 users will use a second device when watching TV. Brands such as Mountain Hardwear are responding to this “couch time” tablet trend with more visual online merchandising.

While tablet was the star of 2012, mobile commerce continued to evolve and mature, with many brands putting increased budget and efforts into leveraging this channel to reach consumers. Most pointedly, we’re seeing retailers merge their apps with the in-store experience to keep toe to toe with the new informed consumer. Examples include leveraging the new Apple Passbook to make redeeming loyalty points easier for consumers and placing in-store QR codes next to products to enable both more information – product reviews – and expanded access to inventory – for “endless aisle.”

With so much opportunity, how does a brand decide which mobile project to tackle?

Mobile site or responsive design should come first to provide an optimized site experience regardless of device type. Next, know your shoppers screen adoption profile, attitudes, and behaviors. These will guide needs of the mobile investments. Establish objectives for the project – is the goal to increase acquisition, retention, conversion, AOV or satisfaction? An app might better support loyalty, while increased focus on the mobile site experience, such as by adding high resolution imagery and ratings and reviews, will aid conversion.  Lastly, design what success looks like by defining how you will measure results.

Gardener’s Supply shared their experience of developing a native application called “GardenMinder,” which gives users gardening advice and content. Just as mobile has been part of a second screen phenomenon, so too has it served as a quick reference tool in the kitchen (recipes), in the garden (care and watering), and in the shed (DIY). It’s a natural extension of content strategy. The initial idea was that users would bring their smartphone with them into the garden and consult information while in-experience, opening the possibility for online purchase through the app when users realize they need a particular pesticide or other gardening supply.

Native apps require the same considerations as brand blogs – they offer opportunity in bounds but require constant tending. Native apps make sense if the organization can keep content updated consistently and put marketing muscle behind the app continually. To accelerate the development process, Demandware is continually developing platform enhancements and is currently developing iPhone SDKs.

A more common story for retailers and brands is the evolution from a dedicated mobile site to responsive web design which creates a storefront that adjusts to accommodate desktop, mobile, and tablet traffic with a single code base. ECCO launched a mobile site 18 months ago in the U.S. when mobile was approximately 8% of their ecommerce traffic [1]; the brand switched to responsive design to offer customers a consistent experience and create site management efficiency through a PixelMedia-led Demandware implementation in 2012. Fast forward to 2013, mobile now accounts for 15% of ECCO’s ecommerce traffic, with the majority coming from tablets [2]. Dana Schwartz, Director of Marketing and eCommerce at ECCO also advised the audience that responsive design helps you future proof your ecommerce operation.  With 7 inch and 9 inch devices on the market, who knows what will come next.

Where are we going?

Mobile Analytics – What are the new metrics to let us measure mobile influence and intent to purchase? We know consumers are interacting across multiple touchpoints. How can we better understand this trend?

Mobile Payments This is still an area of uncertainty and it has huge implications for loyalty and retention. Will Google Wallet truly capture mobile wallet share? Or will the major credit cards find a way to muscle in? The mobile payment industry is largely fragmented.  Will we see consolidation in the next few years?

Apple Passbook – The application solved an issue for retailers in terms of storing loyalty programs, by enabling the user to centralize. Could this be integrated with the phone’s GPS technology to allow a retailer to push offers when the consumer is in-store?

Wearable Mobile Devices – How will Google Glass and other similar devices in this next generation evolve?  Will they leverage gesture based movements to call up complementary information to the in-store experience?

[1] January – December 2012 Metrics.

[2] January – YTD Metrics.