Friday, September 04, 2009

iPhones show the future of the web

I was surfing on my iPhone in bed last week. It seems I’m not the only one; although iPhones have only 13% of the smartphone market (as of the end of July 2009), a far higher proportion of web visits from mobiles are from iPhones (this study claims 67%). iPhone users surf far more often and for far longer than users of rival smartphones. Why? Because it is fun. My first smartphone used Windows Mobile and after a few months I stopped using it to surf unless it was an emergency. It was just too painful and frustrating. The iPhone, in contrast, is easy and fun to use and makes surfing rewarding. Make something usable and people will use it. Astonishing.

The speed from pocket to site is also a factor in the joy of iPhone surfing. Moments after you wonder “what’s the going rate for a George III mahogany chair” the answer comes up on your iPhone screen via the mobile version of eBay. Having the web in your pocket embedded on a device that knows where you are enables far more than simple fact checking; there are already iPhone ‘apps’ (software programs) that help shoppers find local merchants, compare prices, read reviews and more.

This kind of surfing shows where the web is going, and ecommerce merchants are well placed to take advantage of this trend: they already have a digital order processing system, a database of product details and a home shopping friendly customer base. All merchants should be looking – right now – at these three steps:

1) Adding customer reviews.
In a world where all shoppers, whether in a store or online, can compare merchants and prices easily and within seconds, good reviews from customers will become one the key differentiating factors between successful merchants and also-rans.

2) Creating a mobile version.
Reskinning an ecommerce website to fit a small screen should be straightforward, requiring little more than a revised layout.

3) Building an app.
The very well received ‘Ocado on the Go’ does what it says on the tin and helps make Ocado’s customers’ lives easier.

The most important task? If you haven’t got one, borrow an iPhone and hold the future in your hand.

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