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Will Your Ecommerce Business Thrive in an Mcommerce Era?

As Mobile Devices Proliferate, Commerce Is Going Mobile. Are You?



Commerce Is Rapidly Going Mobile

Photo © Talaj @ istockphoto.com
It seems like only yesterday that ecommerce revolutionized traditional commerce. The desktop computer promised to liberate you from the need to visit a retail outlet.

We have evolved to the next stage of commerce. Now, transacting from the desktop computer seems more like a restriction than liberation. It is the era of "commerce everywhere." Handheld devices that can access the Internet are revolutionizing "traditional" ecommerce. We call commerce on mobile devices "mobile commerce," or "mcommerce."

An ecommerce business foraying into mcommerce faces some challenges. Your response to these challenges will determine your fate in the mcommerce paradigm. Here are some questions you will have to answer before your business goes mobile:
  • Should You Develop Dedicated Mobile Applications?
    Most mobile devices do not come with the computing power and storage of desktops. As a result, when a user tries to access a website using a Web browser on a mobile device, the experience is sub-optimal.

    Dedicated mobile applications, commonly called "apps," are programs that are tailor-made for a specific device. Apps are able to draw on the strengths of that device's architecture. They enable user friendly access to a specific website.

    However, mobile devices are not as standardized as desktop computers. There are several popular platforms on which mobile devices run. The development, support, and maintenance of dedicated apps for a large variety of devices can be prohibitively expensive.

    You will have to take a call on your financial expectations from the mcommerce business. That will help you decide whether you want to invest in dedicated apps.

  • Should You Have a Separate Website for Mcommerce?
    Though dedicated apps provide the best user experience, several users will invariably access your ecommerce website using a Web browser on their mobile device. Therefore, your website should be mobile device friendly. Such a website cannot match the user experience of a dedicated app, but it is better than a conventional website on a mobile device.

    If you design a website that works for desktops as well as mobile devices, you have to make several compromises. Instead, you could choose to have one website for mcommerce, and another for ecommerce. The disadvantage of the separate website approach is the duplication of effort in maintaining the common components of the two websites.

  • Can You Design an Aesthetically Appealing Website for a Tiny Screen?
    Fancy graphics and rich media may make a website look appealing on a desktop computer. However, the small screen of a mobile device needs a different design approach. Instead of forcing your current website design on a mobile screen, it is best to start with a clean slate.

  • Have You Paid Enough Attention to Security?
    Security can turn out to be the Achilles' heel of mcommerce. Though security can never be foolproof, you must allocate adequate resources to it. If security goes wrong, the implications could undo the best-designed mcommerce strategy.

  • Should You Support Low-End Devices?
    On the one hand, there are popular smartphones. On the other, there are mobile devices that cannot access the Internet. Some devices that have Internet connectivity may only permit text-based access. A good understanding of your customer will help you design your strategy to support low-end devices.

    Technology can even support ecommerce using text messages. You have to decide whether you want to invest in such technology.
Final Words
Though the questions raised above are evergreen, your answers should evolve over time. As technology progresses and customer-preferences change, you must keep up. Otherwise, your foray into mcommerce will seem like an expensive mistake.
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