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Mobile Ecommerce: A Matter of When and How, Not If 1

Mobile Ecommerce: A Matter of When and How, Not If

For quite some time now, many of our ecommerce clients have been asking us if they should have a mobile presence via a mobile-friendly version of their website or a native smartphone app. However, it’s no longer a question of ‘if’ your ecommerce venture should have a mobile presence, but when and how you should launch your mobile presence.

While you may or may not have an iPhone, odds are the majority of your customers have an iPhone or an Android-based smartphone. Mobile commerce is no longer a ‘nice to have’ element of your ecommerce strategy, it’s a must-have. Consider that in 2010 alone, eBay will process $1.5 billion worth of sales via their mobile channels. That’s up from $600 million in 2009 – mobile has not only arrived in the mainstream, it’s absolutely exploding – ecommerce services juggernaut ATG released a report earlier this year showing that the mobile market is growing and maturing rapidly, at a much faster pace than ‘traditional’ web-based ecommerce grew.

A recent article published on Inc.com discusses your two options for launching a mobile presence: a mobile website or an app. It’s a good article that discusses the pros and cons of each approach, but I’ll skip to the first thing most small business owners want to know about launching their mobile presence – how much will it cost?

From the article, “[For a mobile website] expect to pay anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of the cost of building your existing site. A well-done, rich application can cost from $35,000 to $50,000 on each platform.”

And that’s where most small and medium businesses stop reading – yes, a mobile app could produce literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of sales from mobile users, but investing $50,000 up front for an app is just too high of a barrier for most of us. So, small and medium businesses end up deciding to “wait until it becomes less expensive” or they implement a mobile website.

Even a mobile website, at 50 – 80% of the cost of your existing site, can be too expensive for many small businesses. And that’s one of the reasons that the companies that do have the budget to implement an app or mobile website are seeing such a great return on their investment – the relatively high cost of implementing a mobile ecommerce site has formed a barrier to entry, limiting the competition in the field.

But, as I mentioned earlier, mobile ecommerce is a question of “when” and “how”, not if. Luckily, by examining a few options available for the “how”, we can lower the cost, making mobile ecommerce a reality for small businesses that otherwise couldn’t afford to launch their own app!

The first option, for those using Magento, is to purchase a solution produced by Magento, Magento Mobile. For $799 + $69/year, Magento will create a native iPhone application for your Magento store. Magento has developed a generic iPhone application for Magento stores, so the actual work to implement it for your specific website is minimal, allowing them to develop a native app for literally 3-5% of the usual cost of development an iPhone application. However, like any other mass-produced product, you lose much of your site’s individuality; while this is a great savings over the cost of development an application, it results in a relatively bland application and locks you into paying Magento $69/month for as long as the application is live – there’s no option to take your application and work with another developer or another platform. If you stop paying, your app disappears from the iPhone app store.

The next option is to develop a mobile website, or a mobile-friendly, version of your existing Magento store. As the article above mentions, you can expect to spend 50 – 80 % of the cost of your existing site to do this. However, for our Magento clients, we’ve pioneered a method that allows us to create a mobile version of your site for the iPhone for much less; depending on how customized you’d like your mobile website to be, we can produce an iPhone-friendly mobile website for your Magento store for as little as $750*, and unlike other solutions, this will be a custom-tailored mobile website that matches the look and feel of your main website, keeping your branding intact. Unlike the solution provided by Magento Mobile, all of the code is on your server (no vendor lock-in!), and there’s no ongoing fees. (*$750 is an estimate based on a moderate level of customization; sites desiring additional customization will take a bit longer and cost a bit more.)

We’re working to extend this approach to WordPress as well, so that our clients who use Magento for their ecommerce site and include a WordPress blog on the same domain will have one seamless mobile website that includes their blog.

Finally, after launching our solution for a Magento and WordPress integrated mobile website, early next year we plan to introduce a much more affordable mobile application for Magento sites – this app will be built on top of the mobile website offering we’ve developed, and we’ll be supplying you with the complete code of the iPhone app, so there’s no vendor lock-in or monthly fees!

Mobile is becoming an ecommerce necessity, and with our cutting-edge approach to mobile websites, your Magento site can be up-and-running as a mobile website on the iPhone in as few as 2 weeks for as little as $750. Contact us for details and to get started!

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