eTail West: Rue La La makes sense of mobile

For flash sale site Rue La La, mobile solved a problem and today it comprises roughly half of the traffic to the online retailer.

"Rue La La was started selling limited time inventory, bringing mobile into the picture filled a need," said Gabriella Buerman, mobile product marketing manager, Rue La La. Buerman spoke as part of a panel discussion during eTail West in San Antonio, Texas on Tuesday.

Retailers, the panelists agreed, need to approach mobile from a solution standpoint. For Pinny Gniwisch, founder of online jeweler Ice, the platform provided ways for shoppers to try products that weren't available through a desktop, thanks to mobile's built-in cameras.

"When shopping for jewelry, people take their time," said Gniwisch. Ice created an app that let shoppers take a photo of their fingers and see how the jewelry looked on them. "People were using it as a research utility," he said. Very quickly, 30 percent of the retailer's traffic was coming from mobile.

For, a Web site known more for its automotive information than as a retailer, mobile gave new life to tools that languished online. A lease payment calculator didn't get much use when accessed by a desktop, but became a valuable tool in a shopper's pocket in the showroom negotiating a sale.

Use caution when trying to measure ROI when it comes to mobile, the value of which is often found in its influence on a later purchase, advised the panel. And while the adage, don't innovate for innovation's sake held true for most retailers, Travelocity's VP of Strategic Initiatives, David Young, said the practice had some purpose.

"There's merit in it," he said, thanks to Apple's review and promotion process. "You will get visibility based on making a revision to your app or mobile site. You get that feature placement in the app store and you can increase downloads tenfold. There's ROI there."

Of course, retailers have only scratched the surface of what mobile can do. "I'm addicted to my Fitbit, I would love it to tell me that sales have just started," said Buerman.  "At some point, everyone will need to do mobile, and do mobile well."

Click here for more FierceRetail coverage from eTail West 2014!

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