2012 is the year of Mobile. Again. The undisputed growth of smartphones and tablets over recent years can’t be ignored, but mobile as a marketing channel seems to lead to plenty of confusion. What approaches can companies and brands take to engage with an increasingly mobile audience?
How do we define mobile?
Although just about everyone has a mobile (in fact, 2 in 5 adults in the UK have a smartphone), mobile isn’t all about the device. Lets consider the following scenarios.
The first user is focused, sat on a comfy chair and has the convenience of a keyboard, mouse and large display. He also enjoys a fixed line internet connection and a reliable power supply.
The second user for all we know could be surrounded by distractions. He has no desk to write anything down on and is using a small screen with an unpredictable web connection. Using a smartphone means a limited power supply, but he might be able to pinpoint his location using the devices GPS chip.
So these users’ locations will heavily influence their needs, while their devices and connections will determine their user experience and how or whether they can achieve their objective at the time. So if ‘mobile’ can be defined, we’d say:
Mobile is not confined to phones, but defined by device, location, need and connection speed.
A mobile user can mean many different things. It could be someone using a tablet on the sofa using a wi-fi network while in front of the TV. A business executive travelling? Perhaps a family on holiday looking for somewhere to entertain the kids. These scenarios all have different locations, needs and connection speeds.
How can you target mobile users?
There are several channels within mobile:
- Mobile websites
- Social media
- All of the above?
We’ve often been approached by people telling us ‘we need an app’. But just because you’ve seen an app on Dragons Den, doesn’t mean its what you need to target mobile users.
Our general rule in determining whether an app is the right approach for clients is where there is a specific objective that you want customers to meet. This might be to book something, perform a regular task or take advantage of specific functionality on your chosen device, eg. the iPhone. If users need to sign in to take advantage of an online service, then apps can save your users having to repeatedly sign in, as well as helping you build up a loyal user base. Developing an app will inevitably come at a higher price, but research generally suggests a higher conversion rate.
Apps can either be free or sold, but either approach can yield a financial gain. How you package an app will depend on the product or service you offer. Apps can be unique selling points, drive additional sales (perhaps through in-app purchases) or simply ‘complete’ your service.
As an alternative, you could choose a mobile website. Mobile websites can come in 2 flavours:
- Dedicated mobile website
- Responsive design
A mobile site will be a more suitable choice over an app if you’re providing content for your users. General information, news updates or product specifications, will all sit quite happily on a mobile website making your content accessible regardless of the device.
Dedicated Mobile Websites
A dedicated mobile site can allow you more flexibility in terms of deciding what content you’d like to offer mobile users. It sits on its own domain (eg. http://m.goldrill.co.uk) and can inherit the familiar touch and swipe gestures. However, by leaving out content from your mobile site you risk letting users down when they can’t find what they’re looking for, or have to jump over to your desktop site.
Dedicated sites can be built on a framework (such as jQuery mobile) which can reduce the burden of having to test, test and test again on such a wide and increasing range of devices.
Responsive Web Design
By comparison, a responsive design will adapt to the screen size it’s being viewed on. A three column site on a desktop could become a 2 column site on a tablet, and a single column site on a smartphone.
Responsive websites should mirror the content of a desktop site, after all, it is the same code that makes up the site, regardless of the device. In other words, there’s no practical reason why only part of your site should be mobile friendly.
There are specific challenges with pro and cons to both approaches, so the ‘right’ approach will come back to your audiences need, location, connection speed and device.
Can you be mobile without a mobile website or app?
Absolutely! And there aren’t many excuses for not having a mobile presence. Social media and email are all accessible from mobile devices. So your email campaigns should be tested on as many devices as possible, and you should maintain active social profiles. With the growth in apps and social sharing, your content can easily be found on mobiles, whether directly through Twitter and Facebook, or apps like Flipboard and Instapaper.
Key Points in planning a mobile approach
Why? Do you need to go mobile? Are your audience mobile? Or are you trying to keep up with the latest trend?.
Mobile is not a smaller desktop. We’ve seen why mobile differs. Simply shrinking what you already have won’t work.
Mobile is personal. Our phones include, personal address books and private text messages. People don’t want to feel their personal space is being invaded (note to PPI claims companies).
Location matters. It will often determine a users need. Plus, over 50% of mobile searches include a location.
Is your campaign social? Can whatever you’re doing on mobile be shared with others?
Does what you’re planning to do on mobile fit in with other activities you’re doing? Mobile is not a stand alone discipline, but should be coordinated with your wider marketing activities.
Test, test and test again. This is hard with so many devices on the market, and for the time being at least, old technology isn’t too much of a problem with mobile, but broken pages, skewed emails and slow load times will all dampen your mobile returns.
Make the experience as interactive as possible. Mobiles have cameras, video players, GPS and even speakers. Think about the possibilities for engaging with your audience.
Don’t forget, you probably want users to do something at the end of all this. Whether its to buy something or share your content, a call to action is essential.
The Original Presentation
There are some fantastic resources on the web covering much of this content, so I strongly recommend checking out some of the links below:
- Your content, now mobile. Why you owe it to your users to think about your mobile content.
- Media Queri.es. A showcase of responsive design.
- eConsultancy. Facts, figures and opinon on all aspects of digital marketing
- Ofcom Communications Market Report 2012. All the stats and figures you'll need for UK based web usage and adoption.
Examples of mobile sites we’ve completed
- Burnetts (dedicated mobile)
- Gold Rill (dedicated mobile)
- A Digital (responsive)
- Brentwood Group (responsive)
- Three Shires Inn (responsive)