Friday, December 28, 2012

Quickstart for Building Mobile eCommerce apps

So you want to build a mobile eCommerce app or maybe you just want one built for you? You want this in part because you have long known that Ecommerce is booming and a brick-and-mortar approach may simply not be enough to keep your business afloat. A Harris poll last November found that 43% of the 2249 US adults surveyed had engaged in "showrooming," a practice where the consumer examines merchandise in a brick-and-mortar store but then later buys it online.

Today online shopping is the iceberg and mobile shopping is the tip. But all indications are that the iceberg may invert with increasing proportions of ecommerce transactions taking place with mobile devices as desktop computing devices continue to shrink in overall market share. Another survey by PriceGrabber of 2469 US adults in September found that in 2012, six percent of holiday purchases made by the average consumer will be made via a mobile device. You are likely reading this because you are already aware of these trends and you've been tasked as an IT department to do something about it. The IT departments of medium sized businesses are particularly challenged because their companies are too big to use off-the-shelf solutions and too small to afford extensive custom programming efforts.

For developers building mobile ecommerce apps for a variety of mobile operating systems and devices and then integrating them to Oracle JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, E-Business Suite, Microsoft Dynamics, SAP or other backend ERP systems, a number of development issues should be considered.

First, the relevant eCommerce data structures for the mobile commerce platform must be analyzed. Some data requires synchronization while other data may simply require a push or pull approach per transaction. If you are building your own eCommerce application, you will need to develop a database architecture. Examples can be found on the web ranging from this very simple training example  to this simple and free MySQL table for eCommerce to more proprietary real world table structures for applications like the Magento eCommerce platform. 

Second, you need to assess how the data you choose in your architecture above relates to the data and processes in your ERP system, such as in this example JD Edwards data dictionary.  Data transformations are likely needed when mapping data between mobile devices, eCommerce platforms and ERP systems.

Fortunately, all of this can be simplified by using the Magic xpi Data Mapper 

From a functional standpoint it becomes important to assess what sorts of unique mobile commerce shopping features you want to offer your users. For example, one of the trends in mobile shopping sites is to highlight "local deals." This requires integration with third party ecommerce databases and an awareness through the mobile device's GPS of the users' location. Other goals may include a recommendation engine, reviews, bar code scanning for those engaged in "showrooming" and much more. My advice is to include one trendy feature so that your mobile store introduction has some sizzle but don’t get bogged down in developing too many trendy bells and whistles, because many are going to fade from popularity as quickly as they are innovated.

In terms of the user interface, Magic xpa will make it very easy to create native mobile apps that are tailored in their look and feel for your various mobile platforms: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, etc. The Magic RIA client for iOS™, Android™, BlackBerry® and Windows Mobile® is a native operating system (OS) application for any of these devices, implementing the Magic RIA client protocol. Using the Magic RIA client for the different mobile devices, developers can deploy highly interactive enterprise RIA applications on the various mobile devices.

Remember, Magic xpa Application Platform will take care of the heavy lifting when it comes to the database, business logic and user interface layers and allow you to create tailored native mobile apps for the iOS, Android, BlackBerry, etc. In addition the Magic xpi Integration Platform automates business process integration between your Magic xpa mobile apps, your online eCommerce platform (such as Magento, Shopatron, Demandware, Oracle ATG, IBM WebSphere Commerce, Digital River, hybris, Intershop, RedPrairie, Micros-Retail, SAP E-Commerce, etc.) and your ERP or accounting system. These Magic platforms form an ideal combination for developing and integrating mobile commerce apps. 

I've also noted a trend lately among these medium sized IT departments: they want to choose the ERP, eCommerce and mobile development platforms used, but they often don’t want to do all (or any) of the work themselves. That's why vendors like Magic Software offer professional services for mobile app development, including Mobile ecommerce apps. Feel free to contact us if you’re in the market.


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