Make Mobile Matter

Aaron Sharpiro, CEO of Huge, a digital marketing agency based in Brooklyn says, “there is no such thing as an offline business”, and he is entirely right.  The world is becoming digital and even businesses without e-commerce are incorporating digital into their marketing strategy.  From social media campaigns to data driven SEO, there is one thing we can all agree on: every effort must work together.  Recently there have been some major shifts in the digital marketer’s world, namely mobile marketing.

When you are walking down the street, sitting on a bus or at a local cafe, you often see most everyone on their phone.  Hype surrounding the idea of the mobile craze has been both good and bad.

In 2013 alone, the number of US smartphone users grew 24% from 2012.  In just one year, that’s nuts!  Another trend we are seeing is a shift to multi-platform usage.  Users now read blog posts on their tablet over breakfast, browse social media on their smartphone during the commute, and shop online on a desktop after work.  In addition to this, individuals are using multiple devices at the same time.  Social engagement is one way this can be employed.  For example, during a big game, fans, team members, and owners will often engage in twitter conversations about their thoughts on the action.  This is called meshing.  Conversely, there is stacking, where individuals simultaneously use multiple screens for unrelated content.  Over 2/3 of Americans engage in stacking, which means the competition for their attention is fierce.  However, there is something marketers can take from this: most of the time spent stacking, individuals are focused on whatever they have in their hands.  It’s closer to them, physically and emotionally.  Some businesses like Starbucks have managed to create such a strong connection to their mobile presence that now 16% of transactions are mobile.

From a marketing standpoint mobile has its strengths and weaknesses.  First, the space to work with; there isn’t much of it! This is a challenge for marketers because the content that appears above the fold decreases by a significant amount.  If you thought that space was a constraint before, consider it now.  The message that does make it to this coveted position must draw the user in, be easy to navigate, and get straight to the point.  Another issue is caused by the use of multiple digital platforms.  In the past businesses had it easy and were able to create one beautiful message.  Now with desktops, tablets, and mobile devices, marketers are forced to be a little more creative.

There are a few routes that a business can take to appear seamless on all platforms.  Businesses could choose to develop a website using tools that already incorporate responsive layouts.  Last summer when I was developing a website for Garys’ Mens and Women’s Wear, this was a main factor in our decision making process.  We developed off of a WordPress theme, and in the mockup stage of the process we made sure that each theme we submitted for selection was responsive.  Responsive basically means that the website is developed on a grid that automatically recognizes the change in screen size and acts in response, get it? Using predefined and well established tools like WordPress are really smart for small businesses, who may not have huge budgets, but don’t want to sacrifice their digital footprint.  Unfortunately, some aspects of the site will not translate quite as well on the mobile device, but smart content can make this gap look smaller.

garys desktop image Garys mobile image

Another option, which I think best suits medium to large businesses, is the creation of an entirely separate mobile site.  This way, certain items can be forgone that you want to include on your website for desktops, but might not necessarily translate well to mobile.  Take videos and large images for example; they work well for desktops and even tablets, but could bog down a smartphone with a slower loading time.  This seems like a lot, which is partially why I recommend it for slightly larger businesses, but there is a fair amount of borrowing that goes on.  Many of the images, content, and sentiment is the same throughout each platform.  The Sephora mobile and desktop sites are different, but they work seamlessly together and communicate the same message.  Take a look:

Sephora desktop imageSephora mobile image

The final option is to create an application in addition to the regular website. This works well for a large corporation who have the resources, customer base, and budget to put the effort, time, and money into development.  The benefit of having an application is that 84% of time on mobile is spent on apps.  Another implication is that apps tend to make customers feel more secure.  This feeling could be attributed to the fact that you aren’t on a browser or because you can log-in.  I know personally I prefer to make transactions through an application if I am doing so on my smartphone.  Applications present an opportunity to hone in the benefit of having a slightly different approach and message.  While your desktop website could be focused mainly on creating macro conversions, your application could be aimed at gaining brand loyalty and awareness through a game-like interface… that sounds fun!  Look below at Nordstrom Rack’s desktop and mobile application.

Nordstrom desktop image

Key milestones can be taken away from the transformative shift in platform usage.  Marketers have the ability to take this change as an opportunity.  I will leave you with this note from a marketing and strategy director from Huge:

“To take advantage of all that digital lets us do today, we must work a little harder. Yes, we still need a clear focal point — a single big idea, if you will. But we must respect the roles and potential of the individual mediums available to us. We should consider not just what a brand must say and do, but what it must enable as well. Creating utility, service, entertainment and even products that not only engage but that drive participation in new and different ways.” -Johnathan Lee

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