Mobile is marketing’s most portable and accessible channel. It puts brands literally in the palm of their customers’ hands. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the lure of proximity marketing is often overshadowed by impatience. Companies enticed by the promise of personal access to their customers often suffer a similar fate—a quick-and-dirty approach to mobile commerce which is marked by a brand’s attempt to recreate its entire website for the mobile platform.
This supposed quick fix for a lacking mobile presence is destined to take more time (and budget) than approaching a mobile Web site strategically and thoughtfully. That’s because a mobile site is not just a mini version of a traditional website. Treating it as such will result in first replicating unnecessary online features, and then starting all over again once a marketer realizes the first approach was ineffective.
There’s no getting around the fact that the mobile screen is smaller than that on a computer. But when it comes to overall strategy, size is secondary to questions such as when, how and why consumers are interacting with mobile sites.
Here are some considerations for marketers attempting to gain an understanding of how mobile interactions differ from other browsing experiences.
- When: They’re moving around, both geographically and temporally.
- How: They’re touching the screen.
- Why: They’re looking for a quick answer or solution.
Mobile isn’t just a different environment, it’s a different user experience altogether. Customers view mobile sites with a mobile mentality, and any m-commerce strategy should address the following questions:
- How are consumers actually going to interact with the site on a small-screen, touch-pad device?
- What are consumers most likely using the mobile site for? What is the key functionality of the existing Web site and what might be considered extraneous to users on the go?
- What design layout would optimize the user’s small screen experience?
Step 1: Dial In To Mobile Consumers
The same consumer approaches a traditional website much differently than a mobile one. Take a traditional banking site. In addition to day-to-day financial management features, there are likely a slew of offers for offerings such as credit cards, mortgages, equity lines, loyalty programs, etc. But the likelihood that a customer is going to fill out a loan application on a smartphone is slim to none.
Instead of cramming in cumbersome banking features that don’t benefit the mobile user, marketers should highlight those that do. For a financial services site, this means offerings such as ATM and branch locations, account balances, money transfers and customer service contact information.
The same goes for mobile retailers. More than a quarter of all mobile users regularly use their phones to find product information. A mobile retail site should highlight related features, such as store locations, price comparisons, product inquiries, and sales or discounts.
Long story short: Leave the advanced functionality and browsing-heavy features in the traditional Web environment.
Step 2: Clear the Clutter
Once a brand has a grasp on what its customers want and need from its mobile site, it’s time to start cleaning house. While a website has all the room in the world for offers, text, graphics, landing pages and other features, a mobile site does not.
Marketers should start by removing any pages or items that aren’t used on the go, and bringing the most-wanted pages, offers and usability forward. Next, they should take into account mobile browser load times and the device’s small screen. One way they can test this is by firing up the site on a smartphone and seeing what feels clunky or out of place.
Traditional Web graphics are typically not built with a small screen in mind. While the content or message might work, some resizing and retooling can help it feel more mobile-friendly. Marketers should take note of any flash banners or videos that may significantly slow down load times (or not load at all). These Web-only items are wasting very valuable real estate on a tiny screen, and are seen as navigation roadblocks to most mobile visitors.
Step 3: Perfect Mobile Navigation
The combination of very little mobile real estate and a touch screen means a mobile site’s navigation will have one of the biggest impacts on the user experience. Getting small-screen navigation right is one of the most important ingredients in mobile commerce success. For instance, small links across the top of the mobile site that make a visitor squint and zoom can be a detriment to a positive browsing experience.
After the marketing team has discovered how customers are using the mobile site, and which content to keep, marketers should bring those elements to the forefront with single-click buttons or horizontal bars. Using bolder colors and simple graphics (in line with the brand, of course) that are easy to read will help clearly define the sections of the mobile site, ensuring an optimized path to the desired end result.
Marketers also need to remember the fewer clicks, the better. Consumers’ attention span is short, and their patience even shorter. They are at the mercy of their mobile provider’s Web speed, so expect that slow page load times will be problematic. Helping browsers avoid 3- to 4-step page processes to finding content they need is the best way around this issue. Mobile visitors who can’t find what they are looking for in two clicks or less, and have to wait through slow load times, are likely to abandon their search and possibly move on to the competition.
Step 4: Test your design, usability and content
After marketers successfully complete steps 1 through 3, a mobile site will feel friendlier for the small screen. But there’s only one way to really know if visitors are positively responding to the layout, content and navigation, and that’s by testing it out. Using A/B and multivariate testing to pinpoint the most relevant combination of content and design for a brand’s direct audience is essential to long-term conversion success on the mobile site.
Test elements can vary greatly. While some mobile site updates might be major (giving it a home page look completely different from the Web site, for example), some could be as minor as changing the size of a search box, or the color of a "submit" button. Even these seemingly small elements can have a profound effective on mobile commerce revenues and ROI, especially if they are crucial to conversion rate success.
Testing can also help determine the best experiences by the type of mobile device visitors are accessing the site from. With such a variety of smartphones and tablets on the market—each with varying screen sizes—it’s impossible to launch a mobile strategy for each. Mobile multivariate testing solutions can recognize specific mobile devices and their browser platforms to serve the most relevant content in real time, based on the hardware’s screen size, resolution and alignment.
Given an environment in which consumers can access a brand from anywhere, mobile site optimization ensures that customers can access the content they want, when they want it and in the most pleasing way possible.