Hot Topic Xtra: M-commerce

Here's some more from the interviews on this month's Hot Topic about m-commerce.

Here’s some more from the interviews on this month’s Hot Topic about m-commerce.

How is m-commerce shaping B2B e-commerce?

Logicblock President Alexander Nicolaides: The stress on suppliers to adapt to B2B mobile buyers’ habits is growing, and has been for several years – the total e-commerce revenue for 2017 is expected to shoot past $400 billion. When we break this down into mobile-specific data, we can expect mobile shoppers to play a huge part in the online shopping scene this year.

In fact, it’s expected that 50% of the revenue made through online shopping in 2018 will be from people who shop on mobile devices. If your website is not optimised for mobile, then mobile users will have issues visiting it and will leave without buying anything. If you let this happen, you will be missing out on a huge piece of the e-tail market.

BMI USA VP of Sales Craig Greitzer: Dealer adoption to m-commerce has been slow. Our dealer statistics point to the fact that the vast majority of their e-commerce site users are accessing sites on desktop devices, so they aren’t in a rush to add mobile capabilities.

So, for now, traditional desktop e-commerce is still the driving influence. We believe this is a generational thing. As younger people come into the workforce, we will see the trend towards m-commerce accelerate.

Bernard Dahl, Creative Director for North American e-commerce agency Absolunet: Mobile is one of the drivers of change in B2B. As the way buyers, employees and researchers use computing migrates to mobile, the platforms that (barely) met yesterday’s expectations are having a hard time keeping up.

We expect information to become increasingly centralised and integrated across platforms, with custom functionalities, permissions and options available to end users, often on their mobile. A B2B buyer’s journey is rich with mobile opportunity and buyers are beginning to expect B2C-like functionalities from their vendors.

Richard Sinclair, Product Director at UK-based dealer platform Office Power: In the office supplies industry and especially in the world of B2B, mobile has always been seen as a channel that is under-invested, and it is still true today that the OP industry under-indexes in mobile traffic in comparison to other e-retail industries.

However, it’s worth noting that there is no longer such a thing as a single channel purchasing journey. Customers might have a preferred channel, but they no longer interact exclusively through that one means and are often influenced or have researched their purchasing options across several media before buying.

In order to compete in the office supplies market going forward, dealers must be able to start a dialogue or transaction on one medium and continue it across others, ensuring they have a strong brand presence across all channels.

How are dealers performing on mobile?

Alexander Nicolaides: There have been advances in both the mentality of dealers understanding that they need a mobile-ready platform, and there have been technology advances across providers as well.

EVO Group of Companies E-commerce Director Darren Mack: Conversions on mobile are significantly higher than via desktops, with users utilising m-commerce more for direct purchases than taking browsing journeys.

Richard Sinclair: On average our dealer partners acquire 40% of sales online, and mobile traffic nearly accounts for 10% of global traffic across the group.

What do dealers need to be doing better?

Alexander Nicolaides: While we have seen more dealers care about having a mobile and SEO-friendly website, we still think this is an area dealers could embrace more. It’s crucial from an end-user and search engine standpoint to do so. 

Darren Mack: Awareness and uptake for m-commerce is muted, but as a new generation enters the workforce, a change in behaviour putting mobile first is expected to come into play.

Richard Sinclair: With a mobile solution as well as desktop and offline marketing, dealers can ensure that their brand identity is present across multiple channels, making them competitive in a challenging market with the ability to win new prospects.

What should be dealers’ number one technology priority for mobile be in the next 12 months?

Alexander Nicolaides: Regarding mobile, do it. Go mobile immediately. And I truly hope that this year we won’t even have to say that anymore.

Craig Greitzer: The number one priority should be for dealers to be mobile-ready. After that, the mobile e-commerce site should have SmartSearch or Etilize search capability so that results are identical on the mobile device versus a desktop.

Darren Mack: Understand a mobile interface and build a solution that’s tailored for mobile, not one that’s a like-for-like replication of desktop, but on a phone.

Bernard Dahl: B2B vendors must make the shift to e-commerce, and they need to understand that the ways of old won’t help them convert with younger B2B researchers and buyers. They need to do their homework, understand customer journeys and choose partners that not only understand e-commerce, but B2B as well.

From one-to-many relationships to split orders and permissions and credit terms, B2B has complexities that no retailer will ever have.  Small businesses and retailers must make sure that they have a holistic view of their business and its customers, which means having and using the data to understand opportunities, shifts and trends as well as the tools to cement the customer relationship. That assumes that they have gone digital, of course. If they haven’t, they must. Fast.

Richard Sinclair: If dealers haven’t yet moved towards a mobile-friendly responsive website design, then they must invest now to ensure potential new customers can find them across all channels. If they do have a responsive website design, then make sure it follows all of the latest guidelines set out by Google. Check things like font sizes, image sizes, button sizes, CSS Files, JS optimisation, load times, and caching. If they are still using mobile interstitial ads then start to think of an alternative advertising plan.

Is it really necessary to have a mobile app or will a mobile-optimised website suffice?

Alexander Nicolaides: An important thing to note, which I think gets lost sometimes, is that customers want a consistent shopping experience across all platforms. If you want your business to succeed you need to provide your customers with a seamless shopping experience on every platform.

That said, I think that a mobile-optimised website is a much better option than a mobile app. These types of sites are the most user- and search engine-friendly ways to provide a mobile experience to the end user. In fact, Google has clearly stated it prefers responsive websites.

Mobile apps are functional, but at the end of the day, responsive or adaptive design gets the job done in a much more effective and seamless way.

Craig Greitzer: In the case of BMI Software, we don’t have a mobile app, but rather a mobile browser-based e-commerce site. Our site will render on any mobile device using any browser. This means we can avoid the traditional app developer pitfalls like having to maintain the app each time there is an IOS or Android update, which can be rather frequent.

We have mixed feelings about responsive sites. On one hand, it’s some developers’ dream to only have a single build to maintain. On the other hand, responsive e-commerce sites don’t always render in the most conducive way for shopping. The latter is why we think most companies, including BMI, offer their e-commerce sites with a separate desktop and mobile experience. Responsive sites are much better for general online public-facing informational sites than they are for e-commerce.

Darren Mack: Apps with high data assets or products can need frequent updating, which can be a barrier to use. Different business types with distinct priorities will define whether an app or a mobile site is the best fit for their audience.

Bernard Dahl: In a B2B case, an app may make a lot of sense if vendors can provide additional value through its use (diagnostic tools, geolocalised inventory, augmented reality features, product scans, etc). They still need a site though, so it’s a question of priorities. Build a site that meets your customers’ needs first. Then scale and develop an app.

What are the benefits of pursuing an m-commerce strategy, and how should it fit in with dealers’ overall sales strategies?

Alexander Nicolaides: The benefits of m-commerce are obvious: convenience, flexibility, and efficiency.

At Logicblock, we suggest considering a four-rule principle when it comes to differentiating yourselves from the competition: experience, content, design and pricing. Experience in that the site must be user- and mobile-friendly. Design in that it must be unique, match your brand and stand out from the crowd. Content is critical and that can be anything from custom banners, landing pages, blog posts, A+ product content, videos, etc. Pricing in the sense that, of course, you cannot price yourself out of the online retail game.

Darren Mack: Technology will drive interfaces in 2018 and beyond, with the winners moving forward being the ones that have a mobile-first strategy.

Bernard Dahl: Although mobile influences 56% of retail purchases, e-commerce site sales account for about 10% of revenue – how do you measure the relative importance of digital in this case? People use their phone at all times, which means that it is a part of their buying journey (including discovery, awareness, investigation, comparison, etc) and as such, needs to be considered regardless.

It’s not about having an m-commerce strategy, it’s about understanding how your clients and prospects use technology every day, in their interactions with you and with your competitors, and leveraging that to create an experience which leads to connection, interaction and sales.  

Richard Sinclair: The key advantages for dealers adopting an m-commerce strategy is that they can service customers on the move, as well as build their brand presence. To ensure that the sales strategy is supported on mobile, it’s essential that it’s not only the end-customer website that is available on mobile, but also all selling and order management tools.

What are the major upcoming trends to look out for in the mobile space that could potentially enhance sales?

Alexander Nicolaides: I think the major things to look out for from a technology standpoint would be easier payment options, such as one-click checkout buttons, as well as increasing emphasis on automation for marketing and sales initiatives. Streamlining the ordering process for a shopper is imperative, as it opens the gate for more impulse buys and takes down some of the barriers between shoppers, products and ultimately your brand. With things like shopping cart abandonment re-engagement engines, loyalty programme generators and platforms that aggregate product reviews, there are more opportunities than ever to put these aspects on auto-pilot.

From an SEO or search marketing perspective, I’d be remiss not to mention the importance of voice search and how that is changing the organic and paid search realm, obviously in the mobile space.

Craig Greitzer: The third-party software provider community needs to continue to make mobile adoption easy and cost-effective for dealers. Making sure search capabilities are taken into consideration will also be major factor.

More from the interviews with Ireland-based reseller Codex, and US-based FriendsOffice about m-commerce

Codex Director of Operations Patrick Murphy

OPI: Any specific mobile features that are doing well for your m-commerce solution?

Patrick Murphy: We are undergoing a ‘mobile first’ redesign of our corporate and online ordering platform scheduled for launch at the beginning of 2018. It will be interesting to see the impact.

OPI: What will be your number one technology priority for mobile in the next 12 months?

PM: There are a lot of ongoing projects, but improving search ability of products would be a big win for our customers and their user experience. It’s still very basic on our current platform.

OPI: Is it really necessary to have a mobile app?

PM: Not necessary with our customer base. 

OPI: What are the benefits of pursuing an m-commerce strategy, and how should it fit in with an overall sales strategy?

PM: It’s always important to stay ahead of the curve, and although it’s not critical at the moment, it will be in a few years’ time.

OPI: Are there any major upcoming trends in the mobile space that you think could potentially enhance sales?

PM: As the workforce in general becomes more agile, we need to move with the idea that a user won’t use a single device. I believe this is a challenge we need to be prepared for when we look at tracking and targeting our customer base.

OPI: Any advice for other OP resellers with regards to m-commerce?

PM: Although it might not be relevant now, it will become essential in years to come. Start planning now.

FriendsOffice

VP of Sales and Marketing Betsy Hughes

OPI: How is m-commerce shaping B2B e-commerce?

Betsy Hughes: Eventually, as more and more millennials get into purchasing roles, we feel as though mobile commerce can increase. However, the B2B history we’ve seen shows it’s a tough area to get traction in.

OPI: How are you performing on mobile in terms of sales?

BH: Mobile sales are minuscule. They have not risen significantly in the past year. Again, it’s a matter of convenience. Do people sitting at a computer really need to order from their phone? Our total traffic via mobile devices is only 1.4% of all traffic, with conversion rates for orders even smaller.

OPI: Is it really necessary to have a mobile app?

BH: If your e-commerce website has the ability to be mobile-optimised, you don’t really need an app. However, for us, our e-commerce platform does not have that option. The site on a mobile device is the full website you would see on a computer, so it’s definitely not mobile-optimised.

That being said, that was the whole reason for our provider creating a mobile app. They found it to be an easier solution. However, not all of the functions available on the full site are available on the app. It’s a very stripped-down version of the website and can take some getting used to.

Mobile apps will be important going forward – but again, it’s all based on how the B2B world adopts m-commerce.

OPI: What are the benefits of pursuing an m-commerce strategy?

BH: The benefits of pursuing an m-commerce strategy are that you’re staying ahead of the curve. By ignoring it completely, you will get left behind. However, as it currently stands, we still see mobile commerce as more of a value-add as opposed to a standalone commodity. Most often, it can help to show your company’s capabilities with regard to technology – which will continue to be important in the future. 

OPI: Are there any major upcoming trends in the mobile space that you think could potentially enhance sales?

BH: As far as upcoming trends are concerned, mobile apps will continue to be enhanced and offer more capabilities – Amazon is a great example of how B2C relishes mobile commerce. The Amazon app has more features than the mobile-optimised website, so it funnels more shoppers to the app. Our app simply does not have that capability and won’t until the B2B sector changes its purchasing habits.

OPI: Any advice for other OP resellers with regards to m-commerce?

BH: Don’t expect a big return from mobile commerce, because B2B just isn’t there yet in the OP industry. 

Read the Hot Topic on m-commerce