RSR Research: Where to Start with Mobile?

Jul 08, 2010

Commentary by Nikki Baird,Managing
Partner, RSR Research

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion
is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, Retail Systems Research’s
weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers.

Two weeks ago, I sat at
a round table with six CIOs from an array of retail verticals at RIS
‘ Executive Summit event. Since the conversation
was pretty candid, I won’t share who was at my table. But we had grocery, entertainment,
luxury, and sporting goods represented. Our objective in the breakout session
was to come up with and address some of the issues that mobile commerce faces
currently. One of the elementary questions that came up was where to start.

clear consensus at the table was to make your existing e-commerce site mobile-friendly
as soon as possible — and that did include evaluating how important Flash really
is to you. The problem with this endeavor is that it seems to be leading to round
two of the e-commerce platform refresh, this time with a heavy emphasis on back
end around content management. You need a very strong content management system
if you want to make your site mobile-friendly. And even once you’ve done that,
the biggest challenge, according to the CIOs at the table, is maintaining a
quality user experience on mobile. This isn’t because of challenges with
detecting mobile devices or browsers, but because mobile players are unlocking
more and new features every day, and it’s hard to keep up with that evolution
in terms of what a retailer site might leverage.

The good news is that it’s relatively
cheap to experiment and play around with the front-end mobile experience while
doing the heavy lifting on the back-end improvements to make a robust mobile
capability available.

Within the context of mobile-enabling the existing e-commerce
site, most of the retailers at the table were exploring core things, not trying
to completely mobilize the existing site. It’s already clear to them that not
everything on their site today is going to be useful in a mobile context, but
that has led them to the flip side — what are the mobile-specific things that
need to be enabled? In other words, at what point will the mobile experience
diverge from the online experience? And do you really want to go down that
road? That question got no answers from those of us at the table.

But I’ll leave
you with one very pragmatic piece of advice from my very pragmatic CIOs. The
best tactic for getting mobile projects going is to give your CEO a bunch of
mobile devices (iPads a plus for sure). But if you do that, you better make
sure to give the same set of devices to your help desk first.

Discussion Questions: What will likely be the biggest challenges as e-commerce
strategies are tied to m-commerce? On the other hand, at what point will the
mobile experience diverge from the online experience?

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8 Comments on "RSR Research: Where to Start with Mobile?"

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Max Goldberg
11 years 10 months ago

Ah, to be a fly on the wall of that roundtable…. The biggest challenge will be keeping up with technological changes. No sooner do you adapt to one aspect of the technology than another emerges. The best solution is to keep things simple. Make it easy for consumers to surf your site on a mobile device. Push the entire site to the home page, so navigation is simplified.

But even after you do all this, there is still one huge potential problem: the ability of the mobile carriers to provide enough bandwidth to allow a hassle-free mobile browsing experience. The carriers cannot keep up with consumer usage now. What will happen as mobile browsing becomes more ubiquitous?

David Biernbaum
11 years 10 months ago

E-commerce will eventually be fully integrated with mobile commerce (M-Commerce) and soon enough they will be practically one and the same.

Roger Saunders
11 years 10 months ago

Perhaps one of the larger challenges surrounding this issue is “How do you keep the organization focused on the company strategy?” The e-commerce and m-commerce tactical executions will be slightly different, to be certain. They still have to be seen as part of the holistic media and marketing strategy of the retailer.

You can’t have two parts of the organization going down separate tracks for long periods of time. You’ll end up spinning associates “out of control,” confusing customers, and dividing up financial resources that help make the tactics work effectively.

Cathy Hotka
11 years 10 months ago

At that same summit, some of the folks I talked with expressed an interest in spending time with a focus group of 20-year-olds, digital natives who’ve always had computers. Retailers should be able to execute new technologies, but need better insights into how their new customers will want to use them.

Herb Sorensen, Ph.D.
11 years 10 months ago

I would like to extend David Birnbaum’s comment to the effect that “E-commerce…and M-commerce…will be practically one and the same.” Convergence will be the rule, not divergence. Further, bricks-and-mortar commerce will converge with the other two, with M-commerce mediating the convergence. Faster, please!!!

Ed Rosenbaum
11 years 10 months ago

I can’t help but wonder while reading this about the poor help desk. Unfortunately, most are not paid adequately for the true service they give. Yet they have to keep up with the incredible leap technology is taking. Now they have to become “experts” in the mobile, electronic, and brick & mortar world of the business they serve.

Gib Bassett
Gib Bassett
11 years 10 months ago

With respect to this excerpt: “…at what point will the mobile experience diverge from the online experience? And do you really want to go down that road? That question got no answers from those of us at the table.”

It’s incumbent in those CIOs and others in positions to help their businesses extend to the mobile channel to research how existing customers use mobile devices. There are simply too many use cases to imagine, from complementing the in-store experience to fully stand alone mobile commerce. Before considering any technology, this type of due diligence is essential.

John Crossman
John Crossman
11 years 10 months ago

The key is for retailers to be cutting edge without losing touch with the basics. No matter how much retailers use technology, they must have a clean store with friendly employees. Think outside the box and back to basics – both must happen.


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