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Go mobile for growth

We keep hearing about just how powerful mobiles are becoming in ecommerce, but can we get an idea of just how important they are? Figures published in Retail Week reported that searches for retailers conducted on mobile phones rose a huge 181% in the first quarter of this year, whilst searches on Google grew by 29%.

British Retail Consortium Director General, Stephen Robertson commented, "Online is the fastest growing part of retailing. Despite any short-term effects from weakening consumer confidence, what stands out here is the fundamental strength of the growth of online retailing. The star performer is mobile. Customers are taking to smartphone and tablet shopping very rapidly. The rise of mobile use to one in ten searches sends a valuable message to any forward-thinking retailer that doesn’t yet have an m-commerce platform."

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves. The figures speak for themselves, so our tip is that you must ensure your site is compatible with mobiles as an increasing proportion of your customers want to buy from you in this way. If you can’t serve them, they’ll go elsewhere.

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Why bother with mobile?

It’s universally accepted these days that every business needs a website. Will it become universally accepted that every business needs a mobile website? There are currently around 2 billion mobile devices in usage. The estimate is that this will grow to 10 billion by 2020, far outstripping desktop machines.

Google’s retail, technology and business markets director, Peter Fitzgerald recently told London’s Retail Week Conference that between 10% and 15% of all searches are now done on mobiles. He feels that a mobile-optimised website should be a business’s top priority, adding, “If you don’t do anything else, get a mobile site”. He also pointed out that the majority of purchases made through mobiles are distress purchases, meaning that retailers could possibly charge higher margins on items bought through this channel.

A mobile site shouldn’t replace your normal site. It should be on brand and contain only the essentials from your main site and be very fast to download and navigate. Remember, like all marketing on the web, if potential customers can’t find you or access your main site satisfactorily on their mobile, they’ll go to one of your competitors and who wants that?

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The explosion of devices

This article explores how much the number of devices, screen sizes, resolutions and capabilities is going to explode this year, and how it's actually started this year already. It also explores what it means for your website and how people are communicating with you. Last year we saw the emergence of the first real tablet device to be adopted by consumers at a good rate. This year, we'll see an explosion of tablet devices of all shapes and sizes. Smartphones will also continue to be adopted including iPhones, Android powered devices and also Nokia's Ovi platform, not to mention BlackBerry phones. You can access the internet and content via your TV and from kiosks in shops. All of these systems are pointing to a long awaited and highly anticipated event: convergence. A move away from disparate systems doing different things in different ways, to lots of devices accessing the same content, code and application experience.

We're seeing it in IT systems as well - a move away from disparate systems to a more service orientated architecture where all systems interconnect and things can be combined, reused and repurposed as needed.

With a convergence of devices and systems, we are approaching an age of even faster change and agility to enable companies to push different functionality and content to people depending on their context (e.g. mobile, laptop in the front room, machine at work). This utopian view of technology and convergence is, of course, not on the immediate horizon, we're a few years off. What is important for the here and now is to start considering how your products or services can be used and enjoyed in a multitude of different contexts and devices.

For example, if your business is a restaurant - what do your customers want if they're on their mobile phone, or at home or at work? How can we make it easier to book, to cancel, to see the menu, to get voucher codes, see the floor plan, pick their table, and so on. Lots to think about. If you're a training company can you distribute the workbooks via tablet devices or provide reminders on their progress via their mobile? Even more to think about.

So, what's the bottom line? Start planning for lots of devices and contexts right now.

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