October 5, 2011
Pass the gravy and the smartphone. It turns out Thanksgiving Day, the day before the so-called Black Friday bricks-and-mortar shopping melee, is a big day for mobile shopping, according to m-commerce technology provider Usablenet Inc. After five Thanksgivings—the company has been providing services since 2000—with scores of retailer and travel company clients, it reports an average 200% increase in traffic on Thanksgiving to m-commerce sites compared with traffic on a typical day.
“The traditional big shopping days, whichever you pick, ones when stores have big days, the days before those days are big for mobile commerce,” says Jason Taylor, vice president of platform strategy at Usablenet. “A lot of people, for example, are not at their normal location on Thanksgiving, so mobile becomes a very important device for them to use on that day, and they do some mobile shopping.”
Usablenet has its hands full preparing for this holiday season: It is readying m-commerce sites for 30 new retailer clients, and it’s upgrading the sites for 30 existing retail and travel clients. Retailers and travel companies, Taylor says, are pushing to be ready.
The upgrades center on version 2.0 of Usablenet’s m-commerce platform, which uses the up-and-coming web programming language HTML5 to do things that HTML4 can’t do. And these new features and functions resemble those found on a mobile app, which today enables consumers to shop in a richer setting than a site. But that’s changing because of HTML5.
Retailers and travel companies are selecting from a variety of Usablenet HTML5-enabled options for their m-commerce sites. For instance, shoppers on upgraded Usablenet sites are able to log into their accounts and have the site reoriented to their location, the HTML5 reaching into the smartphone and using the device’s GPS technology. The site then presents the retailer’s closest store and presents regional deals.
Upgraded sites also can include expand-and-collapse menus. A shopper can touch a category on a home page which then expands a window showing a list of subcategories. Touching a subcategory menu can expand a window to show more options. This is significant because expand-and-collapse does not require the site to make a web server call to load another page—everything happens on the existing page, no extra time needed.
Another HTML5-enabled addition is high-resolution photo galleries with double-tap zooming. Taylor says this is important to mobile retailers because mobile shoppers expect to access the same features and functions they do on an e-commerce site.
“Pictures are very important in the retail market on a regular site—how many product views you have, how detailed you can get,” Taylor says. “Bringing that same capability to mobile is an important enhancement this year.”
For Usablenet, which powers the m-commerce sites of 51 of the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Top 300, m-commerce is not a tough sell, it says. Retailers have caught on.
“Up to 10% of total traffic is coming to them from mobile devices,” Taylor says. “Using the e-commerce site on those devices is at best cumbersome and in a lot of cases just lost revenue. Our clients recognize that mobile is increasingly the device, the chosen way of accessing content on the web, and it is not going away.”
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