Mobility Matters: Five Tips For Your Business Venturing Into M-commerce

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Just as we got our heads around the abandonment of bricks and mortar malls for online shopping destinations, up pops another digital phenomenon which is demanding our attention: the beast of mobile commerce. The mall culture still thrives of course, but there are challenges to its supremacy from all aspects of the online giants. The threat, or more accurately the advancement of mobile commerce is nothing new- it has been on the horizon for a while now. The Middle East has one of the largest smartphone penetration rates in the world, after all. The exact figure is hard to pin down, given how quickly the market moves and changes, but one thing is for certain- it will continue to rise as e-commerce platforms fully embrace the digital age.

Websites are becoming more responsive and slick, delivery is now more streamlined, but what of the smartphone offering? Businesses are quick to offer up apps as a solution, but have they considered the traction mobile web currently garners? Apps may well be the end goal, but if you don’t have a business model that works across all channels (web, mobile web and also an app), then your customer experience will quickly become disjointed.

That’s why my enterprise, Mini Exchange, is embracing mobile commerce in its entirety at this stage. We haven’t rushed into building an application just to capitalize on the trend; we’ve waited for the optimum time for us as a business. A huge portion of our current traffic comes from mobile users, with a very low bounce rate, which presents itself with a huge opportunity for us to attract and convert these users. We never rest on our laurels, which is why we have experienced such phenomenal growth since our launch in 2014. We’ve completed the transition from a marketplace to a full priced e-commerce platform, and grown the team from four to 24 in less than a year.

Being an online business does allow us a certain agility, meaning we can expand at a rapid rate without losing any of our key functionalities and capabilities. Our recent closure of a US$3 million fundraising round makes it clear where we stand when it comes to development: it’s investment in the right people with the right skills to achieve our ultimate aim, which is to become a global lifestyle destination for mums and women to shop with confidence daily. New investment will allow us to continue our expansion into new markets and build on our tech foundations with a fully responsive mobile offering. We want to perfect all our touch points and give the customer a seamless multichannel experience, whether they are at home, or on the go.

Related: Putting The Right Elements For Mini Exchange: How I Developed My Own MENA E-commerce Portal

Here are a few of our key takeaways from our experience working in the mobile commerce space:

1. Test, test, and test again

As I alluded to earlier, we have grown rapidly but cautiously. Ramping up our product catalogue, refining our website has happened in tandem; however, we always knew the potential mobile commerce offered. It’s very easy to simply take a desktop site and migrate it onto mobile, but as I’m sure any other techie would tell you: it won’t work out in the long run!

The way we handled this change was completely different- we managed our expectation about how to navigate changes: aligning the UX and UI is key to a smooth transition, and this doesn’t happen overnight. Everything needs to be accounted for -how many products will load before the first scroll, what is visible on different phone screens- these are just for starters, and that’s before we have even considered an app! It’s crucial to not rush any decisions that your platform may not be ready for- there is a phase for testing, and then testing again, because online constantly evolves, therefore your offering will always be evolving as well.

2. The app question

Developing an app almost follows the same kind of thinking. Consider why someone would rather use your app than a mobile web interface. Convenience? A quicker load time? Easier to navigate? Focus groups showed us there was a real need for us to develop an app, as smartphone users engage more through an app than normal browsing. So, demand ascertained what we did, and next on the agenda was considering technological requirements, timescale, and yes, testing once again. You will go through many iterations; it’s all about thinking how you can consistently develop your offering to compete with others in the market. We are just at the start of this journey- the key is to have confidence in your developers, know your product inside out, and be realistic with deadlines- after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is an app.

3. Data driven targeting

It’s crucial to know as much about your current core consumer as those you want to target. Investing in a great digital team who can analyze patterns in behavior and make recommendations based on what consumers like and shop is key to shaping your digital strategy. This then allows users to be targeted with relevant content, which not only helps our retention rate, but gives them a much better experience. We want to take this one step further in the future and become our consumer’s best friend, anticipating their need in advance, and provide an expert quick and speedy service.

4. A smart shop system

Consumers are demanding more and more from their experiences online. They shop, stream and socialize- all from their smartphones and as long as there is value to every action they do, they will continue to favor this over all other methods of communication. The key to success for online retailers is realizing the potential here- a smooth checkout process, pre-populated fields, an easy to navigate search tool- all of these make up what I like to call a smart shop system.

5. Be responsive

There’s nothing worse than an unresponsive website or app, especially when we as a generation have become incredibly impatient when it comes to browsing or buying online. If a page or app doesn’t load in two seconds or less, then our attention has already wandered. We have such a small window to make an impression- so it needs to be a good one!

Mini Exchange is constantly evolving to move with consumer demands and technological developments. We have seen the shift in their behavior online- they like to browse, be educated and be informed, so that when they do choose to shop with us, the process is seamless and most importantly, enjoyable! Value-added experiences are the key to a successful online empire across all platforms, which is why the next step for Mini Exchange is to redefine exactly what it wants to be for its user. Expect a new website, wider product offering and a few surprises thrown in as well; after all, we weren’t named Online Business Of The Year at the 2016 Gulf Capital SME Awards for nothing!

Related: What You Need To Know About Building An E-Commerce Startup