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INTERNET RETAILING 2010: Interviews with Sienne Veit, M&S, and Tim Dunn, MIG

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In the run up to our annual conference, Internet Retailing 2010, we’re talking to some of the key speakers who will appear at the event. Here we have a double serving, talking to Sienne Veit, business development manager, M&S Direct and Tim Dunn, director of customer strategy, Mobile Interactive Group (MIG) – both of whom will be taking part in our mobile retailing panel on 12 October at the Novotel Hammersmith

Sienne Veit, business development manager, M&S Direct

M&S launched a mobile optimized version of its website in May and has since then attracted some 1.3million unique visitors to the site, buying everything from underwear to gifts to beds and even two sofas worth more than £3000.

M-Retailing: Sienne, why did M&S opt for mobile web rather than apps as so many other retailers were doing back in May?

Sienne Veit: We had found that mobile use of our ‘desktop’ internet site was growing and that the people coming into it from mobile were doing so from a very wide range of devices. We also found that only those with top end smart phones were going to complete transactions. So when we decided to bring mobile into what we did, we wanted to make sure we opened it up to as many users as possible, which meant looking at optimizing the website for mobile. We also decided that we didn’t want to open up a service that was just there for early adopters, we needed it to work for all our customers. Mobile web also is a solid foundation to build on for future developments of our site, our service and the kinds of devices people may have in years to come.

MR: You’ve had 1.3million unique visitors so far, is this in line with your expectations for the site?

SV: We were getting hundreds of thousands of visitors and rising before we launched so it having a proper mobile optimized site has grown that number. The site has also seen a lot more people coming to us through google on mobile, so yes we are pleased with progress so far.

MR: What about sales through the channel, how are they looking?

SV: We can’t reveal figures, but all 24,000 items we sell are available through the mobile site and we are selling across the range. We are selling a lot of wine and gifts and the usual things. We have also sold sofas and double beds which is interesting and we see these as sales that might otherwise have been lost. Typically you buy these things when you move house. But when you move house you often lose your internet connection for a few days. Now that mobile is there we can plug this gap. We are also seeing people using the fixed web to check out things like sofas, then they go and try them in store, then they buy them on mobile. It is all part of a cross channel experience.

MR: So you don’t see mobile cannibalizing any of the other channels?

SV: Not at all. Mobile is the glue between all the channels: you see a mac advertised on TV and you can check it out online, buy it on mobile and collect it in store. Mobile is just part of the “Shop your Way” programme that we are running and it works remotely, at home, in store anywhere. We aim to offer our customers the ability to shop however they want, not dictated by channel.

MR: So what’s next for mobile at M&S?

SV: We are constantly looking at how to add value to our customers. Location and personalization are going to be very important and our next steps are to look at how to best use these together. Our customers tend to be very loyal to their local store so we want to build highly personalised and localized offers in to what we do.

Tim Dunn, director of customer strategy, Mobile Interactive Group (MIG)

MIG has worked with M&S among others to create mobile web sites and apps that offer great user experience and functionality. The company has been at the forefront of the development of developing interactive mobile services for TV shows, newspapers, brands and advertisers, as well as working now with retailers including M&S, B&Q and Rimmel.

M-Retailing: Tim, why is mobile so important to retailers?

Tim Dunn: Keeping up with the Joneses. Its is critical that you keep up with what your competitors are doing on mobile as consumers are so far ahead of where business are with what they want from mobile that any company that comes along and offers a better mobile experience than you is going to take mobile business away from you. Consumers want mobile.

MR: Why are consumers so hungry for it?

TD: Mobile is instant and engaging. If you limit yourself to using just the web then you are cutting out all those people who want to shop right now, wherever they may be. You are also not engaging with your customers when they are likely to be receptive to hearing from you. Media companies are getting ahead on this now, they are engaging with consumers in all those little bits of downtime they have. Mobile used to be sold as something that people did when they were ‘out and about’, but these days they are just as likely to pick up the mobile to surf or shop while watching TV or sitting at their desk at work as they are to when they are out shopping.

MR: Where do you sit on the apps verses m-web debate?

TD: in an ideal world you would be able to offer both so that those that love apps can use them and those that don’t can use the web. Apps are still huge. Soon there will be more Android handsets than any other kind of smartphone and ‘Droid users tend to be app fanatics, so that may drive a bit of surge in apps. And apps are useful: they are very rich experience and are better suited to some tasks than m-web. M-web on the other hand will future proof your development as it will be screen and device agnostic pretty much – so that you can develop once and then tweak for new handsets. There is also set to be a proliferation of different device types coming along – tablets, games consoles, web-enabled TVs and so on – so you need to be ready: m-web development will stand you in good stead.

For more information about Internet Retailing 2010 or to reserve a place click here.
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