If you follow the Magento blog, you've probably noticed that Magento launched a new product: Magento mobile (limited release a.t.m.). It all looks pretty cool: it's a way to have a native mobile app (now on iPhone only, but they plan on releasing Android and iPad too) for your Magento store and to manage the app through your Magento admin. You can also take a look at a demo video of The North Face Magento app that is scheduled to launch somewhere in June. I do think mobile will be the next big thing in e-commerce and I'll say it again: Magento Mobile is really cool.
But I don't see mobile e-commerce apps go big.
At least not in this form. I don't think that a customer would install a bunch of apps from websites they might sell a product on. Sure, it might work for the really big sites/brands you buy regularly from. But I'm not going to install an app for every store I'm going to buy a product from. And compared to a good mobile website, I don't see an advantage for the app. You will need a (quick) mobile internet connection for both to work properly. You can use your account on both with the same shopping cart, same wish list, same products... A native app might run a bit faster, but I don't think that's going to convince customers to go to the app store, search for an app, download the app and launch the app. It's faster to just go to the store through a browser. So I'm in the dark about the added value of a mobile app for the customer.
And why should the shop owner push it's users to a mobile app instead of a mobile website? Again I can't think of enough advantages to justify the investment in apps. Sure, an app enables you to use the phone's camera, GPS or push messages. And some of the big companies will come up with some cool stuff to do with that. But the current Magento mobile just looks like a regular storefront, I couldn't find anything unique you can do with it compared to a mobile site.
Maybe the future will tell me wrong, and that's ok, but for the near future I don't see mobile e-commerce apps go mainstream in the form that Magento Mobile is presenting it right now.
Are you a Magento shop owner that wants to 'go mobile'? For the time being, I'd say you'll do fine with 'just' a mobile theme.
In rapid changing online environments, continues business experimentation is a great way of constantly learning what works and what doesn’t. But then the question might arise: how far do you go? What do you test? And is it sometimes ok NOT to test something?