Entrepreneurs And Developers, Hedge Your E-Commerce Bets

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We're not sure about you, but we're still trying to digest all of the turkey we enjoyed on Thanksgiving this past Thursday. Thanksgiving is a huge holiday for all — and it's not just the food, family and copious amounts of wine, it's the inevitable deals and shopping, too.

As you may already know, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two huge commerce days, at least here in the US, for retailers worldwide. We ran down a few of the key statistics yesterday, which outlined how consumers are accessing stores more and more from their mobile devices — not a surprising shift.

TechCrunch's Josh Constine highlighted another important trend in e-commerce, specifically, social commerce. An IBM report showed that Twitter referred 0% of their Black Friday traffic — certainly a mind-numbingly low number, considering the brand has more than 33,000 followers on their main account. It's an issue of attribution, and it's one of the reasons why social commerce has lagged behind mobile commerce.

For e-commerce, It's hedging your bets

E-commerce, in and of itself, is a fairly basic animal. Increasingly, more people consider shopping online as an alternative to braving the cold and the early wakeup time. But layer on social networking and mobile, and things get complicated very quickly.

The biggest difference between mobile e-commerce and social commerce is the business approach. Mobile e-commerce is focused around the transaction — a native or responsive solution falls under this bucket — and social commerce is focused around the affinity. Sure, you see social commerce options increasingly shift toward the transaction, but for the most part, they rely upon trusted first, second and third degree connections to drive awareness of a product and convince a person to buy.

In a way, it's a good thing that mobile commerce is focused on the transaction. If a person knows what they are looking for and want to buy something swiftly, they should be enabled to do so with as little hassle as possible. An optimized solution, whether responsive or native, is necessary for this to happen.

By understanding that social commerce's main goal is to drive brand and product affinity, it isn't surprising to see the referral numbers so low. Some people click through on brand's messages immediately, but some also favorite or save brand updates for consumption later. The latter is problematic, as there is no guarantee a user will go through a brand's previous message or link to a sale — often times, this is the only way a transaction can be tracked.

Given that there have yet to be specific analytics developed around social commerce that can prove or demonstrate meaningful e-commerce value, it's likely that mobile commerce will continue to be a big focus for most brands for the foreseeable future. It's not to say that social commerce is valueless — it plays an important role in a person's decision to buy — but the bet is hedged in the transaction vs. affinity balance.

Mobile commerce is a hedged bet for most, as well

For companies focused around the mobile commerce space, the decision isn't whether or not to create an optimized solution — this is a given. It's deciding between having a responsive (HTML5, for our purposes) or native solution in place.

Tom Sullivan, an ecommerce web developer, noted another factor in a Quora discussion. It takes a good amount of time investment and overall brand engagement for a person to download a native app from the iTunes Store. To channel Mark Zuckerberg's frictionless approach, it would make sense to build a responsive solution that benefits all.

That being said, it would be a mistake not to consider a native solution as an important part to an overall mobile puzzle. Let's go back for a second to IBM's report. The company notes that the iPad accounted for more than 7% of online shopping traffic — more than any other tablet or smartphone. Building an optimized native solution for the iPad may make sense for some retailers, given the iPad's dominance and demonstrated ability to drive traffic.

Excluding companies with the budget to afford both, the decision between a responsive and native mobile solution will strictly depend on the company business goals. As mobile and social continue to collide together, there's going to be even more attention shifted toward these two distinct, but similar, growth areas for e-commerce in the future. While a responsive design ultimately helps in the short and long-term, some companies may find that a native solution best helps them meet and exceed their business goals.

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