It’s almost 2015, and unsurprisingly everywhere you look (unless you are by yourself in the middle of a desert) there are people with their smartphones. Be it on the metro, while walking from A to B or even in the bathroom, people are using their mobile devices day in and day out for all sorts of reasons, including shopping. In fact, the current state of mobile online shopping is so significant that it has officially changed the way businesses approach and serve potential customers. In China alone, 1/4 of the population are online shoppers. That is around 330 million people in a country where over half a billion people have regular internet access. According to the [latests reports](http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/jessica-anuna/chinas-billion-dollar-gam_b_5252479.html), by the end of the year "m-commerce will exceed $50 billion in revenue". This is in grand part due to Alibaba's rapid expansion of its 2 e-commerce platforms: Taobao and Tmall, which currently account for 3/4 of the entire mobile shopping expenditure in China. It is also expected that by 2018 the country will be the biggest m-commerce market in the world. How is that for an opportunity? Anyone wanting to stay relevant as a business in this market has to really consider a mobile strategy. Having a mobile strategy goes beyond just giving your customers a better user experience. Having a mobile strategy is about ROI and increasing profits as well as keeping up with current market trends to ensure you succeed among so much competition. So where do you start when it comes to planning a solid mobile e-commerce strategy for your business? ##M-commerce Strategy## ###Step 1: Define who your mobile users are### If you already have a e-commerce website, the easiest way to define who your mobile users are, is by looking at your current traffic analytics. Most analytics software will be able to show you your visitor's usage locations, device preferences and demographics. With this information you'll be able to define the type of shopper that visits your site - comparers, social or impulse shoppers for example - and therefore be able to design your mobile strategy ensuring that all types of visitors are served. ###Step 2: Establish success parameters### Before you start designing and developing your m-commerce site or app, you need to define what success will look like once it is live. For most success = purchase, however, it can also come as social validation in the form of product shares or social media endorsements by happy customers, as well as the completion of tasks such as surveys and newsletter subscriptions. Whichever goals you choose, make sure they are [SMART](http://www.projectsmart.co.uk/smart-goals.php) as they will play an important role in how your site is designed and developed. ###Step 3: Decide on your mobile strategy implementation### Going mobile doesn't necessarily mean creating a mobile website in the form of "m.yourdomain.com" or building an app for your business. Broadly speaking, there are 3 options you should consider to implement your mobile strategy: ####Mobile site:#### A mobile site is a mobile device-specific website, with it's own URL and a different content and structure compared to the non-mobile version of your website. Some of the biggest benefits of having a mobile site is that because it's 100% mobile optimized, it has a great performance and user experience. Moreover, it is easy to optimize content and images without affecting anything on the desktop website. However, having what is basically 2 sites for one business means double the maintenance and double the SEO efforts which is both time consuming and costly in the long run. ####Mobile app:#### Mobile apps are native software applications that can be downloaded or integrated into mobile devices such as tablets and mobiles. One of the great things about apps is that they perform better and have a better UX than any other mobile solution. Once the app is downloaded it stays visible in your customer's phone so you are always in their mind. The downside though, is that to achieve that, your customer has to be invested enough in your company to feel the need to actually go through the app download process. Apps are also expensive to develop, inflexible as all changes and updates have to be approved by the app store before they reach your customers, and they are device specific - what works in android won't in iOS and vice-versa. ####Responsive website:#### Responsive design allows your website to adjust itself to the screen size of the device it is being viewed on. Responsive websites are great in that they are the most cost-effective way to turn your e-commerce business into a mobile store. As you only need one website, you save on maintenance and maximize your SEO efforts. However, as one website serves all devices, it can be slower to load and the overall UX could be affected. We personally believe responsive websites are a great option for the majority of websites and should be the standard of development in this day and age, but whichever option you make, ensure it is the right one for your needs. ###Step 4: Create wireframes to establish the UX### Once you've decided how you will implement your m-commerce strategy, it's time to design. Now, before jumping head first into the sea of colors and pictures, it is crucial that you define the structure of your mobile website or app first. By doing this, you get the opportunity to identify potential pain points that users could encounter, before investing too much time and money into a full design. Wireframes are easy to modify and allow you to play around with different options in order to identify the best layout to serve the users you identified on step 1 and achieve the goals established on step 2. Once approved, wireframes serve as the blueprint for the design stage. ###Step 5: Design your website### When it comes to m-commerce sites, design and functionality go hand in hand. The design needs to reflect your brand well enough to inspire trust in your customers while offering the best possible user experience in terms of functionality to encourage your visitors to make a purchase and hopefully become repeat customer. So what are the most important elements you should consider when designing the look and functionality of your m-commerce site? ###Design### ####Navigation#### * Prioritize key features * Use off-canvas navigation * Ensure your search function is up to scratch! * Keep the navigation fixed ####Typography#### Screens on mobile devices are smaller and they are viewed in less than ideal circumstances (in the dark, bright sunshine, in moving vehicles, etc...), so in order to be able to sell anything you have to make sure visitors can easily read your content. * Make it readable * Ensure it is well spaced * Ensure there is a high enough contrast between type and background ####Photography#### One of the key features of any successful e-commerce site is high quality images. Although m-shopping is done for the speed and convenience of it, customers still want to know what they are buying before placing an order. As screens are small and there is no way to touch and feel the products, it is crucial to include at least the following: * Main individual featured image * Detail product pictures - showcase the product from different angles, open/closed, in use, etc... * Close ups of components, materials, etc... ###Functionality### ####Browsing#### * Ensure the UI behaves how the visitors expect it to when it comes to swiping, tapping, etc... * Enable cross-functionality - GPS for store finder, click to call. * Implement social media sharing to allow customers to share your products with their friends and family. ####Order Form#### * Enable context specific inputs so that the keyboard or numeric keypad automatically pops up when the customer clicks on a field to fill in. * Pre-populate and autofill forms when possible ####Payment#### * Allow cross-platform cart syncing - customers can seamlessly browse on one platform and then buy on another. * Offer multiple payment methods * Offer the option of "Click and Collect" if you have a physical store - this allows users to buy items online and then pick them up at the store at a convenient time. ###Conclusion### Despite its exponential growth in the last couple of years, m-commerce is still in its infancy and has an incredible potential. Last year, as reported by the Huffington Post, m-commerce accounted for less than 1% of the $3.9 trillion that were generated from card payments in China, which is none the less a nice chunk of change! With number of transactions expected to continue rising, it would be a shame to miss out on good business because your website isn't mobile optimized. If you follow the steps and best-practices outlined above, you'll be in a great position to take the e-commerce market by storm. If you are particularly interested in entering the Chinese market, you might want to check out our "[Adapting your website to China](http://it-consultis.com/blog/adapt-your-website-to-china-design/)" series, to make sure you get all the cultural design aspects as well as the technical regulations right. If you need help with your m-commerce strategy, feel free to [give us a shout](http://it-consultis.com/contact-us/)!
Vice President and Co-founder at IT Consultis