E-tailers need mobile-first strategy in Asia

Proliferation of mobile phones and mobile Internet in region, especially China and India, mean online merchants need to prioritize strategies for mobile platform instead of desktop-based Web shopping, Akamai exec shares.

E-commerce vendors looking to enter major Asian markets such as China and India will need to come ready with a mobile-first strategy due to the high mobile phone and mobile Internet penetrations in these places, one Akamai executive advises.

Lelah Manz, chief strategist of commerce at Akamai Technologies, said in an interview on Friday that the Asia-Pacific region, particularly the two markets identified, has a greater proliferation of mobile devices  and more mobile Internet traffic than matured economies such as United States, the European Union, and United Kingdom.

Mobile shopping in the region is also at a higher level than mature western markets, Manz observed. About 25 percent of users in Singapore, for example, have used mobile shopping services and this is more than half that of the western markets, she said.

It is for these reasons that e-tailers are "enamored" with the large potential customer base in China and India , and are mulling over plans to enter these markets via establishing payment methods, infrastructure, or partnerships with local companies, the executive said.

Manz suggest these retailers focus on finding out how to convert smartphone or feature phone users to being mobile shoppers first though. This would mean making sure they are comfortable with using these handset devices to shop and ensure reliable Internet access from the mobile phones to the payment systems, she said.

Data security would also need to be tackled in order to win over customers' and retailers' confidence, thus spurring the adoption of such purchasing methods, she added.

Keep it simple
In terms of site design, Manz noted e-tailers will need to simplify their Web sites' design in order to make navigation on smaller screens easier. Online merchants tend to want to include a lot of functionality into their desktop-based sites but this design philosophy will not work on mobile devices, she explained.

The Akamai executive also said the real opportunity for mobile shopping in Asia still lies in smartphones and tablets despite the current dominance of feature phones, particularly in emerging markets. This is because the former's bigger screen size, better camera, and Internet connectivity, all add to making the retail experience that much better than when done on feature phones.

That said, feature phones are not left out in e-commerce. Manz said location-based services play a role in e-commerce on features phones with retailers using GPS and SMS to attract customers near their stores to come in and purchase.

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