Mobile Marketer has re-launched! Click here to learn more! struggles with simplifying car estimations on mobile

SAN ANTONIO, TX ? An executive at eTail West said that the company has struggled to carry out innovation such as picture capturing within its mobile products while at the same time delivering seamless utility.

During ?The Role of Mobile Devices Today: A Selling Channel vs. a Marketing Channel? session, executives from, Travelocity, Rue La La, Ice and ForeSee discussed how to find utility in mobile for consumers. The panel was moderated by Jason Baadsgaard, senior vice president of client development at Conversant, Boulder, CO.

?We?re trying to cut down the challenges of search by using the camera of the phone,? said Mike Woods, former director of mobile and emerging technologies at, Santa Monica, CA. ?When you look at cars, an individual model of car can have a wide price range, from $30,000 to $70,000, depending on all the options you pack in.

?We built a section where you can take a picture of the sticker on the car,? he said. ?We would have somebody filter out what that car was and send you the price tailored for that person. We launched that as a test with a lean startup approach.

?We discovered that there?s challenges with pictures. Getting a clear picture of a window sticker is very difficult. We actually took an arrow on that one, and weren?t getting enough clean pictures to use them, but it?s something well continue to experiment with down the line. How can you use the phone to get through an arduous experience.?

Mobile utility guides consumers through purchasing a car, and the company embraced mobile more as trial-by-fire at first, but now views mobile as a core part of its business.

According to Mr. Woods, the company?s mobile traffic increased from six percent to 38 percent in less than six months.

While the photo feature encountered some difficulties, the company is still seeing value in finding utility across devices. started out on mobile by creating a feature on its app that let consumers virtually try on a ring by taking a picture of their finger and placing jewelry on top of it.

?We found that people were using it as a utility and it really helped the research aspect,? said Pinny Gniwisch, founder of Ice, Austin, TX. ?And as time went on we saw more traffic, so we went into the mobile site. And we saw that 30 percent of our traffic was using mobile, so it was a no brainer.?

Other examples that came up in the panel were the Lowe?s app, which directs consumers to the exact aisle and shelf where a product is located in store, as well as ABC?s app which sends a reminder to consumers before a show is airing.

?Using things that are underutilized on phones like reminders ? it?s simple execution stuff that?s really powerful from a consumers? perspective.?,? said Eric Feinberg, senior director of mobile, media and entertainment at ForeSee, Ann Arbor, MI. 

Room for improvement
According to Mr. Feinberg, 90 percent of bigger retailers optimize for phone but just as many are not optimized for tablets, pointing to a lost opportunity in meeting consumers? expectations.

What it really comes down to is enabling consumers to access a product whenever and however.

?It?s illustrative of the point here which is if you?re not there, you?re not in the place where a sale might happen,? he said. ?You?re going to miss a conversion.?

Mr. Feinberg also believes that brands need to expand their definitions of ROI and value for mobile.

?The push back is, ?Oh we?re seeing more sales here, the traffic may be there but not the sales,?? Mr. Feinberg said. ?It is about a mobile-influenced sale. We should start to teach our executive team these types of phrases.

?It?s about how mobile contributes to business or influences it,? he said. ?There are ways to quantify it.

?Commanding the importance of mobile relative to these other industries, the Web team and store team, they?re institutionalized so they have more budget, but there?s no reason why that should be. If you fast forward ten years we?ll all be on the same playing field, it?s just a matter of time.?

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York