Retail suffering from lack of mobile presence

With over half of retailers lacking a mobile presence, the head of mobile commerce at eBay says a mobile-ready website should be the first step

Retailers need to address the growing trend of mobile commerce to keep up with the needs of their consumers.

This was the belief of Olivier Ropars, senior director of Europe mobile commerce at eBay, who told Computer Weekly that fewer than half of the retailers he speaks to have any form of mobile presence.

“When people visit retail websites on their smartphone, they just go to a classic website and those retailers are suffering from it,” Ropars said.

The trend of shopping on a mobile phone is being driven by consumers and now it is time for retailers to play their cards or lose out, but even with most telling Ropars they will invest in the technology in the coming year, many don’t know where to start.

“With so much you can do in the mobile space, from HTML5 and apps through to the mobile web, it is hard to figure out where to begin,” Ropars said.

“There is no easy answer but the key is to know your customers, how they use their mobiles and what they want from you.”

Ropars illustrated the point with a comparison between John Lewis and Superdry. While customers of John Lewis may want to use their mobile as an additional tool, perhaps to reserve items or check stock, those visiting Superdry are looking at new trends and when they are going to hit the market.

“Once you understand this, it is easier to plan your next move,” he said.

However, Ropars believes anyone at square one should look to mobilising their websites first and foremost.

“Mobile web has got to be the start for most,” he said. 

“It is not necessarily where transactions are going to happen but it is where you can innovate and test things out for your mobile strategy.”

Mobile apps, Ropars claimed, are expensive to develop and once downloaded are out of the company’s control, only updating if the user chooses to.

By starting with a website, retailers can undergo a “feature triage” to work out what elements should be included on the mobile site and to change, innovate or upgrade as often as they like, without damaging the company’s reputation.

“If you don’t get the app right the first time you will get bad reviews and can destroy the brand,” said Ropars. “With the mobile web, if it doesn’t work you just switch it off and update it.”

“Once they have got a great experience on your mobile website, then you can see if they would like an app, what they would like on it and encourage them to download one when you have developed it.”

This approach also makes it easier to compete with other retailers as with the millions of apps available, it is hard to make yours stick out.

“Not everyone will download apps to access you,” he added. “Most people will only have one or two retail apps tops on their mobile.”

“But if you get the right experience on your mobile website, it will be easier to distribute.”

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