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While mobile commerce seems to be taking hold in other markets, especially Japan, the UK's retailers seem to be slow so far to anticipate this trend, with very few having launched transactional mobile sites.

Looking at a US article on mobile commerce usability today from GetElastic, I was struck by how many of the big name retailers in the States are already catering for customers on mobiles.

Sears, BestBuy, Ralph Lauren, Barnes and Noble, Amazon and others all have m-commerce sites, yet I can think of very few in the UK.

As Linda says on GetElastic:

There are a handful of retailers who’ve taken the lead and developed mobile sites. Some are good, some are great, all are better than a non-optimized version.

If you have an iPhone or some other smartphone with internet access, it is possible to shop online from a standard e-commerce site, but it is a usability nightmare, and only to be attempted in desperation. What retailers need is a dedicated m-commerce site that provides mobile shoppers with a stripped-down, usable version of the main website.

Retailers unsure of the potential for mobile commerce should look at the example of Japan where, according to this report, up to 25% of a retailer's sales can come via mobiles.

If mobile users want to buy from your site, why not make it easy for them? Especially if, like Interflora, you have a product that would be useful for people on the move.

So which retailers have transactional mobile sites in the UK?

Amazon: This is about the best of the bunch, providing a more basic version of the main Amazon.co.uk website, yet still keeping many of the better features.

This means that you can still search though the entire product range, read reviews, and purchase through your mobile. If you already have an Amazon account with saved payment details, it's even easier.

eBay: As well as a mobile version of the website, eBay UK also has an iPhone app which allows you to bid and keep an eye on your buying and selling activity. While both the mobile site and app have their faults, you can at least bid and buy from your phone.

Interflora: The flowers and gifts retailer recently launched a transactional mobile site, which offers a limited range of flowers and gifts on a stripped down version of the site.

And that's as many as I can find so far. There are some decent mobile shopping comparison sites, such as Sccope and Reevoo, but having found your product, you then have to go to a site that has not been optimised for mobile to complete the transaction.

If you know of any other UK m-commerce sites I've missed, or you work for a retailer that is planning to launch a new mobile site, let us know in the comments below... 

Graham Charlton

Published 2 June, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

Giles Colborne

Giles Colborne, Managing Director at cxpartners

Nice article. Here's why it looks that way:

m-Commerce isn't the same as e-Commerce - it suits different products and buying patterns are different.

So don't expect the same old names to feature in m-commerce.

eBay's a great example - buying on eBay is time-dependent as it's all about auctions. So it makes sense to have a bidding / monitoring tool you can take with you. Hence they're ahead of the curve.

On Amazon's mobile site, you'll see that wish lists features much more prominently than on the main site - on mobile they have equal status to buying. That's because Amazon knows that many users want to make a quick note of a product on their mobile and buy it later.

As for Best Buy - their experimental mobile site is focussed on finding a store and looking up product details (when you're in a store).

For some categories (like games, travel and music) m-Commerce makes sense. For others, it's about using mobile to support the online buying experience.

Getting it right means knowing whether your product will sell on mobile, and thinking through how mobile, bricks and mortar and web all fit into the buying process.

We're creating a complex ecosystem - mobile will play a unique role.

about 7 years ago

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Simon Perry

I think Giles Colbourne makes a good point in the comments. M-Commerce is fundamentally different.  You need to focus on what you beleive the user is most likely to do and don't give them too many options.  

One of the biggest challenges we found when we (www.xibis.com) built the Interflora m-commerce site was having to leave everything out.  On normal web sites we spend our time trying to give as rich an experience as possible, yet on m-commerce it's all about keeping it as simple as possible - which means you need to limit your user experience around what you expect most of them to want to do.

about 7 years ago

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Will - Arena Flowers

We specced out requirements for a mobile site some while ago.  It wouldn't be a great deal of work and is not really that difficult.  Primarily CSS and trimming certain features out of flows.  However, with only 1% of our traffic coming from mobile phones at present and a very clear phone number on the site for mobile browsers to call, we don't yet see the ROI on investing our dev time in this project when there are other far more interesting ways to spend our development resource; ie in ways which will generate far more bang for our dev buck.

That said, we do want to do it and we will build a mobile site in time - and, naturally, it'll be much better than Interflora's rather basic m-site. ;) - it's just a matter of when it makes sense in the grander scheme of things...

about 7 years ago

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Mark Bolitho, New Business Director - Ecommerce at more2

M-commerce is most definitely one for the future, but I am a bit surprised that it's not more widespread in the UK, even at this 'early' stage, at least as part of the mix.

I take on board the previous comments, but as we've come to learn about buying habits we've discovered the 'want it now' factor, where people can be very spontaneous and want to buy that thing for a delivery tomorrow. This is what online shopping is all about for a significant % of people - I'd err towards about 25% of spontaneous types out there.

Imagine, having ummed and ah'd about buying that pair of shoes, only one left in stock. you finally make the decision when you're on the road. you pull over, open the site and order them. Happy days - truly mobile commerce!

it's a bit of a chicken/egg situation too, as Will points out only a small % of traffic comes via mobile at the moment, but there are very few proper mobile sites that don't take forever to load like the full web versions do.

It's something we'll be raising with all our clients in the very near future. Having explored the cost implications it can be done quite cheaply, or cost a fair whack if you're looking at a full CMS integration. We're now sending order confirmations via SMS, and content too, so i feel it's only a matter of time.

Personally speaking, if there were more good mobile sites to buy from I'd use them.

about 7 years ago

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Sebastian

Stripeylines is committed to M-Commerce, it is an iPhone price comparison/Barcode scanning app with a range of 'mini-apps' giving the ability to preview in iTunes, sell on ebay and more.

It is international, covering UK and US especially but also much of europe, but is a UK lead project. We're working with some big UK names like Tesco to ensure its not just international products that are available.

over 6 years ago

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