ecommerce

Impact of Mobile Devices on E-commerce

By Peter Eckert
Originally Published in Mobile Marketer:Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fueling the Internet’s next evolution, mobile devices are solidifying the new retail experience from bricks-and-mortar to the ease of click-to-order. With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, mobile commerce is expected to grow significantly over the next three years.

ABI Research predicts that globally $119 billion in goods and services will be purchased via a mobile phone in 2015, representing about 8 percent of the total ecommerce market. The mobile medium will be a key component of marketers’ overall retail strategy, even though it is still in the early stages of growth.

Sizing up
More consumers rely on mobile to make purchases not just on their device, but also in retail stores. It has become a powerful tool for retailers to increase sales, conversions and loyalty as well as track and mine consumer data for targeted marketing.

However, with evolving technologies, many retailers are also struggling with how to effectively create a meaningful user experience across multiple channels.

Today, some of the largest retailers have already deployed special applications and mobile commerce sites designed for mobile devices to enhance the customer experience, while others expect mobile users to adapt to their existing ecommerce site.

For the consumer, it is very apparent when they access a site on their mobile phone that is not optimized – and, there are thousands of them.

Ecommerce sites do not translate well on to mobile devices because most were developed for PCs, leading to difficultly uploading and navigating. It is a common experience and easily drives consumers to other sites that are user-friendly.

Mobile commerce is all about convenience. Consumers can do more than make a purchase. They are using their phones to compare prices, find retail locations, read reviews and find coupons.

It is increasingly a competitive advantage for mobile sites to upload quickly and be easy to navigate as consumers weigh their options.

With so much at stake, why are companies either doing nothing or trying to repurpose their ecommerce site for mobile devices? While there is not a one-size-fits-all approach, repurposing an existing ecommerce site will simply not work.

Part of the problem is a lack of understanding of the technical limitations. Clearly, smartphones and tablets are equipped for Web browsing, but the technical limitations and subtle nuisances compared to a PC require some optimization.

The form factor of mobile devices requires resizing of elements and content to scale to a smaller screen size while also being responsive to touch.

In general, to successfully create a meaningful and compelling user experience, companies should conduct user research to determine the best strategy for their ecommerce solutions.

Right fit
Looking forward, companies have two options.

Rather than trying to repurpose an existing ecommerce site, companies can build a mobile version of their ecommerce site.

Mobile sites have some cross-platform capabilities and should not require too many different designs.

The problem with this approach is the long-term cost of ongoing maintenance and adapting to other delivery channels.

A better, more long-term commerce solution should have a responsive design that fits a site to a given device, screen or browser.

In a nutshell, it is ideal for companies to have one Web site with one set of content and one coding framework that can be easily updated as devices evolve.

While the upfront costs are more, the long-term costs will be significantly less. The cost to develop one responsive design site and cross-test it is far lower than other current alternatives.

Switching devices with a responsive design requires only a presentation layer adjustment, while switching devices with a mobile site can quickly drives up costs with new designs.

But there are missed opportunity costs to consider as well.

It is hard to define the loss of consumers who write-off an ecommerce site after repeated bad experiences. Making a change sooner than later can help position a retailer as a go-to mobile resource and benefit from the positive brand equity on the way.

THERE WILL BE a continual evolution in mobile devices.

As digital channels increase, it is going to become only more complicated. While fundamentally each channel has its own needs and limitations, companies need to take a holistic approach to the customer experience and the retail strategy. A short cut now may cost you later.

Navigating the Inherent Challenges of Creating a Mobile App

By Peter Eckert
Originally Published in Mobile Marketer: Thursday, April 9, 2012

By 2015 it is predicted that mobile shopping will account for $163 billion in sales worldwide, according to ABI Research. As mobile devices begin to dominate the marketplace, retailers are shifting their focus to mobile applications as part of their retail ecommerce strategy.

At first glance, creating a mobile app seems straightforward. Judging by the now-millions of apps out there, it cannot be that hard, right? Wrong.

Aptly said
Keeping pace with the shift to mobile apps is becoming increasingly complex. Marketers must understand the needs of their end user, the different platforms available and the strengths and weaknesses of each—as well as their technical limitations—to create a meaningful user experience.

One of the most common problems today is that companies are trying to “port” existing software applications onto a mobile platform. They are trying to squeeze too much functionality into a mobile device form factor, which has limitations on hardware and user perception.

Complex applications will not translate well onto touch-enabled mobile devices because most were developed for PCs.

It appears that companies take two different approaches to this issue: approximately half the companies think they can port over an existing application while the other half are embracing a simpler paradigm.

The simpler paradigm leads to two common approaches to mobile app development: a single platform – native app – and mobile Web app.

Native apps are device-specific apps that run directly on the device, whereas mobile apps run via a Web browser. The pros and cons are less about the platform and more about the level of delivery and the impact on user experience.

Selecting the right app for an ecommerce strategy can be tricky. There are several key drivers that need to be considered.

The apps’ goals should be defined from the onset: does it aim to increase sales or to provide useful information that supports an overarching ecommerce goal?

Next, executives must decide on their target demographic of users to design an app in a meaningful and intuitive way for the consumer/end-user without overdelivering.

There is no simple answer as to which approach is best. It hinges on balancing business goals with performance needs, usability and costs.

Performance and usability
Native apps have a distinct advantage over mobile Web apps when it comes to user experience.

The Apple store currently offers more than 500,000 native apps for the iPhone and more than 140,000 for the iPad.

The popularity of these apps is driven partly by their commercial promotion via the mobile app stores but also by the unique user experience that they offer.

Hands-down, native apps typically offer a smoother, simpler user experience compared to Web apps.

Since native apps run directly on the device, they are typically faster, can access hardware features of the device and can handle richer graphics and content. They are great for games and other performance-dependent applications, while Web apps are better suited for news feeds and less complex data.

While native apps provide a more streamlined experience, mobile Web apps—which run on a common browser—are accessible by almost any Web-enabled device. The downside is the impact on the performance – they tend to be slower, which makes them feel clunky and less rich.

Additionally, since Web- apps are delivered through a browser they generally cannot access hardware functionality of the devices themselves, at least not today.

Considerations: Cost and flexibility
Aside from performance and usability, marketers must evaluate the overall cost and flexibility each approach offers.

Native app development can be streamlined and efficient, enabling companies to maintain full control over the user experience. But there are some trade-offs.

Since native apps are device-specific, companies will need to develop a separate app for each mobile platform – Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Window Phone 7 – which drives up development and maintenance costs.

Additionally, all native apps and future updates are subject to approval by each specific app store and user downloads, limiting a company’s ability to quickly change existing code.

The ability to instantaneously update a Web app makes it a more accessible and flexible approach, but it can also add additional cost and increase development time.

Web apps benefit from the updates occurring in real time with no need to download or install any software. As a result, they can evolve and advance through a more incremental process.

AS MOBILE COMMERCE continues to grow, mobile apps will become even more important to marketers’ strategy. When deciding on whether to build a native or Web app, the primary consideration should start with determining the real strategic objectives and weighing them against the technical limitations of the application.

Marketers should focus on functionality before complexity. With each there are trade-offs, but they can also be used to complement each other in an overall mobile strategy.

Tablets in the Enterprise: Still a Blank Slate

By Peter Eckert, TechNewsWorld
Published: Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It’s about time to change the stereotypical tablet user from casual and hipster to high-management.

The post-PC world is now; tablets and other mobile devices are beginning to dominate the marketplace. An estimated 45 million tablets will be sold in 2011, three times the number sold in 2010, according to BMO. With that explosion in popularity, it is no surprise they are making their way into the enterprise environment.

From the emergency room to the boardroom, tablets and other mobile devices are decreasing paper-based processes, as well as improving communications, workflows and efficiencies. The linchpin to tablets’ future in the enterprise environment will be the incorporation of a tablet user interface.

In With the New
Filling a different niche than PCs do, tablets will be widely adopted in the enterprise environment in numerous verticals. Eighty percent of businesses will support a workforce using tablets by 2013, according to Gartner (NYSE: IT) Research.

The old computer paradigm of a massive box that takes up half a desk was a result of physical, size and weight limitations; the tablet has lifted these physical barriers, paving the way to excel in mobile and other environments.

Tablets are already used across a swath of sectors, including healthcare, manufacturing, financial services, real estate and retail. Hospitals are using tablets to facilitate information sharing. Instead of fumbling with a pile of charts or rushing back to a desktop, doctors can quickly access a patient’s records, check for medication interactions or view x-rays from anywhere in the hospital.

Financial institutions are leveraging these devices to streamline loan applications. Architects are bringing tablets to meetings to show blueprints and floor plans that can be updated on the fly; previously, mounds of printed plans would be out of date the second an alteration was made.

Retailers are implementing tablets to have roaming checkouts, price checks and inventory records. Airplane pilots use tablets for charts and other navigational tasks. These applications are just the tip of the iceberg — enterprise tablet uses will develop with the product itself.

Despite all the success stories, the tablet is not right for every environment — at least not today. It is all too trendy to look to the tablet for every business environment, but certain solutions are just too complex or oversaturated with features to be easily ported to the tablet.

Job functions that require heavy data entry and intricate document creation are currently too cumbersome to carry out on tablets. It is less about the tablet itself and more about the task the tablet is asked to perform.

This will change in the future, as the next five years will be dramatic in the progression of tablet capabilities. For example, actionable table functionality is expected to flourish through voice commands, advanced gestures and other methods.

What to Consider
While numerous businesses are finding improved efficiencies and communications since adopting tablets, others are trying to ascertain if they’re right for their organizations. Regardless of some of the tablet’s obvious limitations, however, they will continue to find their way into the enterprise environment.

Before an organization adopts a strategy to implement tablets, there are some things to consider. Understanding the role of the users and the functionality they require is critical to maximize the success of deploying the tablet in the enterprise environment. Companies with employees who work in the field, for example, will benefit greatly from tablets. Companies also need to evaluate the available applications in the market in order to best apply tablets in their daily operations.

Unfortunately, today’s application offerings are often ported from existing applications and do not translate smoothly to the tablet because they were created without much consideration for touch-enabled devices.

Furthermore, complex software applications for the enterprise include a number of features that do not lend themselves easily to the simpler and more intuitive application paradigm and input methods that the tablet platform supports. They will have to be restructured and deployed with a subset of functionality in order to be cohesive with tablets.

However, it is important to understand that tablets are still in an early development stage, and there are not many suitable applications available on iOS or Android to support an enterprise or productivity-focused company.

However, specialized workforces and mobile workforces can leverage existing tablet offerings to increase efficiency and streamline daily processes now. Once the kinks in the user interfaces of ERP-level applications are ironed out, tablet use in business will excel well beyond those specific workforces.

The Right Approach Going Forward
Improved user interface design will transform the way tablets are used in organizations and greatly increase the benefits of tablet implementation in businesses. Going forward, it will be paramount to design interfaces that will allow users different, customized applications that are tailored to their specific needs for a seamless experience.

The reduced form factor of a tablet and the usage patterns of the end user require a special user experience that showcases just a fraction of the functionality of an enterprise-rich desktop application; tablets don’t have the capacity to offer everything a PC does, but they offer unique advantages.

Out of the box, the tablet is a great tool for specialized tasks in workforces. However, the integration of superior user interface designs will accelerate the tablet’s adoption in the enterprise environment — and that adoption will accelerate efficiency and productivity in myriad industries..

©2011 TechNewsWorld

projekt202 Helps TicketCity Bring Exceptional Customer Service Online

AUSTIN, TEXAS October 25, 2011 — TicketCity, a leader in the secondary ticket industry for more than 20 years, has unveiled a powerful e-commerce platform designed by projekt202. TicketCity’s new e-commerce site provides a world-wide marketplace for fans to buy and sell tickets for all sports, concerts and theatre events.

Cutting-edge user interface design studio projekt202 led the design process with the objective of creating a superior user experience for online ticket purchases. After extensive user research, projekt202 simplified the navigation to enhance customers’ purchase pathway during e-commerce interactions. The company’s new platform now offers a more intuitive online shopping experience that streamlines the process of searching, identifying and purchasing tickets online.

“We’re excited to partner with the talented team at projekt202 for a second time,” says Amy Carpenter, TicketCity vice president of marketing. “Understanding the intricacies of our business was essential, as well as highlighting customer service in a competitive online retail environment. projekt202 helped us navigate the project with ease, providing intriguing, quality design work and helping us unearth valuable insights in the process.”

For each new design project, the projekt202 team undertakes extensive product end-user research, creates interactive elements and visual solutions, and works to create powerful user interfaces that improve functionality. With more than 75 unique clients worldwide, the firm provides user interface design for major corporations, including Motorola Inc., Microsoft Corp., Kronos and Logitech International.

“Our business started 21 years ago, before commercial websites existed, focusing on building relationships and providing exceptional personal service. It’s exciting to see that same mission brought to life on TicketCity.com. Our goal is to provide helpful information and tools online, and easy access to our team members for personal assistance,” says Zach Anderson, TicketCity COO.

About projekt202
Founded in 2003, projekt202 is an innovator in user interface design. With expertise and experience in a range of industry segments, projekt202 creates emotionally rich and intuitive solutions that enable end-users to access the full potential of powerful technologies in web-based, desktop and embedded environments. For more information, visit www.projekt202.com.