Mobile commerce offers a great opportunity for manufacturers and retailers. By 2015, people will access the Web more often through smartphones than through laptops and desktops combined. The smart firms are going mobile with their customers.

For example, Kenneth Cole attracts 10 percent of its Web traffic from mobile devices, and 4 percent of its sales take place through a mobile device. Although these numbers seem low, they are impressive, because they translate into significant numbers of people who never need to go to their computer to complete their sales transactions.

Steve Madden similarly obtained 4.4 percent of its Web traffic from mobile devices in April 2010; by October, this number had risen to 10.5 percent, which equaled about 880,000 customers. The firm released another staggering figure about these shoppers: They spend an average of seven minutes on Steve Madden’s mobile site.

These firms have embraced the recommendation that mobile experiences should be similar to Web experiences, but not exactly the same. For example, Google Maps can show a mobile user where the closest retail stores are located. Another application might inform customers about the inventory available in stores, so they know if an item is in stock before they actually visit the store.

Finally, a mobile viewing interface generally is much smaller than a monitor or a laptop screen, so there needs to be less information that somehow conveys the same brand image. Steve Madden provides more instructive numbers related to this point. Whereas customers view an average of seven Web pages during their online visits, they browse through only four or five pages in a mobile setting.

Discussion Questions:

1. Have you used a mobile device to access a Web site? Buy something? What was your experience with this process?

Marianne Wilson, “Growing Power of Mobile,” Chain Store Age, December 2010.