M-commerce (buying things using your phone) is no longer a trend, it’s now just part of normal retail. So when it comes to getting mobile, which route should a retailer choose – that of the smart phone app or that of a mobile-optimised site?

With 51% of consumers more likely to purchase from retailers with a mobile specific website, it’s easy to see that having a mobile presence is a must for a successful online retail strategy.

From an online sales perspective, a mobile website is usually the best bet since there are more people browsing than playing with app stores. There is a much higher chance a consumer will find you via organic search, blogs, ads, or directly typing the brand name as the URL. They will then be redirected automatically to a site optimised for their particular mobile device, which is often location aware. An app, on the other hand, must either be actively sought out by the user and downloaded from a specific app store or offered it when they first reach the mobile optimised website.

Social integration is key. There are more than 350 million active users accessing Facebook via mobile devices and people are sharing links all the time. If a product link has been left on a user’s Facebook timeline, you risk losing a sale every time they click through to a non-mobile optimised product page due to usability frustrations.

The “one size fits all” side of mobile websites makes it extremely attractive from a social perspective as no matter which device a link is opened on, the customer will experience optimised usability. This is also radically less bespoke, which means you can be up and selling in no time and for less cost than your monthly phone/broadband/TV costs.

In contrast, an app opens up a large range of phone based functionality not available to mobile sites and ideal for retailers whose goals are more brand focussed than sales focussed. The ability for apps to access phone functions, such as cameras, and contact lists, can make for a more interactive and engaging user experience. An app may use these features to run personalised competitions, or, for example, to create some form of augmented reality where a user can “try on” accessories. However, if this sounds expensive, it’s because it usually is; £50,000 is fairly typical. The trouble with an app is that you not only have to build it multiple times for multiple smartphones (iPhones, Androids, BlackBerrys etc.), you also must consistently upgrade it to support new platforms and new operating systems.

If you’d like both a mobile website and an app in the App Store or the Android Market,  you can have both when you use our Movylo Shop m-Commerce service. Our retail customers have a fully functional mobile site AND an app, included in the package. This covers all bases, with the app ready for those who actively seek the retailer out, as well as a fully fledged mobile website optimised for anyone that comes directly to the site.

Being where your customers are is Marketing 101 and now they are on mobile at almost all times they’re not talking to the person in front of them or working. Just take a look around you on the train, in a queue, on the sofa opposite you (half watching TV), in a restaurant whilst their friend’s ordering.