What’s the difference between an e-commerce website and an e-commerce application?

Posted on February 25, 2013

One of the key trends of 2013 is the expected uptake of mobile e-commerce. But what form will that take? What we’ve seen with some of the more adventurous companies to-date is a mobile enablement of their website, either through responsive design or a targeted mobile site. But is that enough?

Mobile is about Emotion.

Mobile offers a great opportunity to provide much more than just a store front. A person’s mobile device is their most personal device. They have it with them all the time, they hold it close and have an emotional attachment to what they do with it. Because they can touch products and manipulate them with on screen directly with their fingers, they can more easily create an emotional link between product and customer.

Emotion is very important because it elevates a purchase decision above a simple feature comparison. That allows a retailer to sell the product at a higher price and it makes the consumer more likely to buy. Emotional connection can be made through beautiful images, telling a great story about the product and linking its use to certain people or groups.

How do we communicate emotion through an application?

By providing beautiful images of the product, with short story stubs and a very engaging, rapid user-experience. Think of a mobile application as a glossy magazine with a direct route to a shopping cart. You can use an image to draw consumers into a product, tell a story that they can attach themselves to, and then use more standard product shots to show it in detail.

Here’s the thing that’s the big difference. On a mobile device, you want to allow a customer to browse and discover more easy. The response on a tablet, for example is immediate, hence the pleasure of discovery is much greater.

Why are Websites Different?

Most website-based e-commerce solutions tend to be more functional than emotional, and tend to be bad at telling stories. This is why they fail to engage an emotional response.

On a technical level, websites, because they need to load data over the Internet with each page change, they tend to be slower and less smooth. While this may only be a question of milliseconds, it is noticeable and makes the overall experience less pleasant, creating a barrier between the emotional being and the product. When you want someone to buy, you want them to have the best possible experience.

Take a Look at Frank and Oak

Montreal’s Frank and Oak have had a blistering first year of existence. They have fully understood the importance of great visual design and have applied this to both their e-commerce website and their mobile application.

But here’s the thing, Frank and Oak’s mobile experience is much more agreeable than their website due to faster loading speeds and a more reactive interface. In addition, their mobile application allows customers to purchase anywhere and compare their products whilst out shopping. Expect more retailers to be providing similar experiences in 2013.

Frank and Oak have done an excellent job, but we feel that they are not perfect and we can do so much more. We’re really excited to see what leading-edge retailers will be launching in the mobile space this year.

Where do you want to be in 2013?

As a retailer, where do you want to be? Do you want to be ahead of your competitors, creating great relationships with your customers on their tablets and smartphones?