Don't be fooled, it isn't thunder. Staying put would be a blunder
"Don't be fooled, it isn't thunder. Staying put would be a blunder" read the Jumanji board when Judi rolled the dice followed by the stampede of rhinos, elephants, zebras and pelicans. In the mayhem, Peter gets hold of the board, rolls the dice to see the Jumanji board consume all the giant herbivores and the big birds that caused the turmoil. As I was engrossed in the 1995 Hollywood flick, my smart-phone beeped a reminder to buy groceries. I looked at my palm and imagined the device in my palm consume the telephone, the camera, the music systems, the wallet and the banks and everything that is coming in its way. The retail stores seem to be its latest fetish.
While the e-commerce wave is running high a smaller wave of mobility is surging ahead. From a distance, mobile-commerce seems an innocuous looking extension of the e-commerce, but a closer look tells the other side of the story. A website focuses more on the feel of it and aims at giving an experience which is compared to an actual store. On the other hand, mobile app aims at optimizing the use of each available pixel on the smaller smart-phone screen and tries and reduces clutter of not-so-useful options. Ecommerce today can be compared to Live TV journalism which gives a life-like experience with the live footage closest to the event scene and on the other hand, mobile commerce can be compared to advertising, where one has to justify each and every word uttered / shown to be crammed into that elusive and ultra-expensive 10 second slot.
It started with the elite, backed by their apples and the berries but the 'humanised-bot' ensured it reaches the masses. . The cheaper handsets and the free apps meant mobile commerce was in everyone's pockets. Hence the mad rush of retailers to roll out mobile apps in the android market and the apple stores.
While the e-commerce capabilities were more dependent of how much money a retailer wants to pump in to make its website more and more capable, with mobile apps, it's not that straightforward.
E-commerce websites are becoming heavier and more capable to various features and analytical capabilities to show relevant products, best sellers, cross-selling promotions, comparing competitor prices, etc. The goal is to give a holistic shopping experience which is as good as if not better than shopping at a brick and mortar store. The social networking integration capabilities has opened a Pandora's box altogether by giving options like shopping with friends, sharing the cart, taking opinions from friends from even different continents. Capabilities like uploading your own photo with dimensions and the applications are able to show how the customer will look wearing the desired outfit or may be spectacles; give the ecommerce channel its edge.
Coming back to mobile commerce, it would have been desirable to have all the features but for the usability of it; considering the smaller screen size of most devices. The primary goal of m-commerce is to provide secure shopping capabilities on-the-go. To be in sync with mobility and the dearth of time, the product search has to be more precise the need to browse has to be limited to keep the shopper interested. Also, the promotions need to be more and more relevant. It has to be ensured the promotional offers that are present on e-commerce websites have to be present on the m-commerce as well to make the channel tempting. The challenges don't stop here. It has to be capable enough to cater to the customers using various devices on different platforms like the Apple's iOS, Microsoft's Windows, Google's Android, Nokia's Symbian, etc. While for e-comm websites it's acceptable to make the customer download and use another browser; incompatibility in the case of mobile commerce will result in the loss of sales and the customer.
The mobile definitely has some way to gulps the retail stores completely and sets its eyes on something bigger. The message is 'cloud' and clear- Don't be fooled, it isn't thunder. Staying put would be a blunder".
Your comments are welcome to discuss the journey of the "little giant in your palms" in the upcoming posts.
- Harshad Deshpande