Less-Than-Epic Fails Of Mobile Retail Sites

Mobile-Macy-Ad-B2Sometimes even self-serving blog posts from young and overeager startups can be instructive despite themselves. As everyone and his entrepreneurial brother feeds the digital news industrial complex this week with studies and predictions involving holiday e- and m-shopping, the device testing company Keynote tries to throw some cold water on it all with a reality check on the fitness of mobile retail sites. Claiming that the mobile iterations of many major brand retailers are “not prepared for holidays,” Keynote picks nits at a host of mobile versions.

Macy’s site, it turns out, seems to be formatted for best viewing on a lagrer Android device than on any iOS device, for instance. Barnes & Noble’s store times are deemed too tough to read and their search box forms tend to bleed off the background a tad on the BlackBerry Torch 4G. Target is very iPhone-centric, they think, so the title copy ends up less prominent on an HTC EVO 4G. And that Web site’s Target logo on an iPad 3 loses its holiday ornament design entirely. Heavens. Alert the media. No, wait -- they just did.

Of course, I kid because I love. This is precisely the kind of fussy eye for detail you want in a mobile site tester, which is what the company is selling. You may not want to live with Felix Unger from “The Odd Couple.” But that is the guy you want cleaning your apartment. And there are some truly pressing questions raised in these analyses.  For instance, one retailer’s store locator flat out refused to access the phone’s native geolocation hardware from the mobile Web site, regardless of device.  Yeah, that would be bad.

As someone who has done my share of scolding apps and mobile sites for their mobile unreadiness, however, I actually am enthused by the general mobile readiness of many of the retailers in my area compared to previous holiday shopping seasons. Perhaps I am looking at all of this through the lens of 8 years covering mobile marketing, much of which witnessed truly epic fails of major brands on handsets.

In just the last year, the likelihood of hitting a mobile-optimized site when typing in a brand name has risen considerably, in my experience. Not only that, but it seems to me that many more retail sites have a mobile brain behind them, insofar as the layout and user path seem to be anticipating the customer’s most likely set of needs when they access them from a handset. Most of these designers have received the memo that mobile does not necessarily mean “on-the-go” so much as “best screen at hand.”

And so many sites lead with large lush images that are just as likely stroked in the user’s living room as accessed from the passenger seat in the SUV. Many of these sites are as timely as their Web counterparts, with Black Friday signage meeting you at the door. And there is a lot of lean-back material to be enjoyed. Anyone who wants to spend the evening looking at David Beckham in his underwear will have a good old time at the H&M mobile site, by the way. He doesn’t do anything for me, but just sayin’.

Or perhaps this Grinch’s heart “grew three sizes” over the years. I look at many of the sites that Keynote calls out and see their glasses half full. Look at how now we quibble over search boxes that overstep their bounds on a BlackBerry. I am still encouraged when a product page has multiple images that are swipe-sensitive. On balance there is more for mobile media to be thankful for this season than to decry. Enjoy your Who pudding and rare Who roast beast tomorrow, all. 

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