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IRX 2013 SPEAKER HIGHLIGHTS Apps the way forward as mobile web fails to deliver

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Research in the US by Adobe suggests that apps are actually winning out over apps in m-commerce. Could the apps vs m-web battle be reaching a conclusion – and what does it mean? Ahead of IRX 2013 at the NEC on 20-21 March, Mark Inskip, UK managing director of Group FMG, offers his opinion

Adobe’s latest US-based research – The 2013 Digital Publishing Report: Retail Apps & Buying Habits – makes interesting reading for mobile commerce specialists in the UK. Although no one is going to deny that mobile shopping is the way forward, the report highlights that we are going to have adjust what we tell our clients. Having spent the past few years trying to persuade companies that they need to have a mobile version of their website, we now need to be telling them that they actually need to have a catalogue based app if they want to offer their shoppers the best possible mobile experience.

Much of the problem with mobile websites is down to the current infrastructure, and many agencies will be pinning their hopes on 4G to really bring the mobile web to life. However, Adobe’s research seems to indicate that this hope is misplaced. Although the arrival of 4G and LTE in the US was set to give the mobile web a welcome boost, Adobe’s study indicates that even here browsing on mobiles is still a long way from what we’re used to with the rest of our online experiences. Indeed the report cites that smartphone shoppers highlight the slow speed of browsers and the ease of navigation on apps as reasons for their interest in using apps and digital catalogues.

With the increased opportunities for brand interaction and engagement that apps offer, it’s hardly surprising that the report found that 38% of tablet shoppers and 42% of smartphone shoppers responded that app interactions strengthened their connection to the brand. The research also found that of those people who don’t currently shop on mobile devices, one in four intends to use mobile apps to shop in 2013.

All compelling reasons for treading the app path as opposed to creating mobile websites, but if we’re going to be encouraging clients down this route we need to look at how these apps are created and displayed. Bespoke apps are expensive and just reproducing a series of flat PDFs is hardly going to engage people.

There are some simple rules that I think we need to follow here: Don’t replicate or redesign but repurpose your content; add interactivity; and don’t try to re-invent the wheel.

Just copying your existing photography, imagery and design into an app will potentially lead to a cumbersome and unrewarding experience, with differing screen sizes. A better option is to take this material and adapt it to fit on your chosen platform, without completely overhauling your design. In effect this means resizing images and then relaying text to fit the relevant screen size.

Once you’ve done this, it’s a relatively straightforward process to add interactivity through hot spotting so that users can explore products, see different variations, share them over email and social media and ultimately to purchase them.

Adding ecommerce functionality to your digital catalogue is really the icing on the cake, and the thing that adds the most value to your customers. However, what you don’t want to be faced with is creating a wonderful ecommerce enabled digital catalogue that you then have to spend time and energy getting to work with what you have already in place.

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