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I was talking with a prospect the other day and working on their plans for 2013.  Naturally mobile is at the top of their agenda.  The big question they had is what should we do? Mobile App or Mobile eCommerce?

The clear answer for me is: Mobile eCommerce Site

Not being an App developer, you might think my answer is self serving however hear me out.  First, I am talking about a solution for a small to medium retailer with under 20 locations.  Apps are expensive, the market is fragmented, and maintenance costs are huge.  This is fine if you are distributing the costs across a billion dollar channel with millions of existing customers, but the reality is, most merchants don't have that luxury.

Even if you can get a mobile eCommerce app framework so you don't have to start from scratch, you still need to build for at least iThings and Androids (Samsung had the highest selling smartphone in Q3 of 2012).  You also need to figure out how you are going to maintain your content in the App.  Ideally you can connect your app to the same content that you use for the store so you are not updating two sets of content but you need to factor that into your costs too.  Not to mention maintaining the app so it keeps up with the changing OS.

You also have to think about distribution for your app.  Your customers have to be engaged enough to go through the time and effort of downloading and installing your app.  Will they?

With a mobile friendly eCommerce site like the sort we develop with CommerceCM, you have none of these hassles.  One set of content, cross platform accessibility and instant access.  Someone sitting in a cafe across the road can enter your URL into their phone and start browsing.  With an app, they will need to get directed to an app store, download and install the app before they can begin.  Do you build an obstacle course in front of your door?  Of course not!  Why would you for mobile shoppers?  A mobile site gives instant access.

A good mobile eCommerce site also ensures a shopper has a single profile across your mobile and traditional web channel.  Orders they make on their phone in the park are visible when visiting your site from their home computer.

On balance, while implementing an eCommerce site that is smartphone friendly will increase your costs, it is still the best choice for most small to medium independent merchants.
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