Mobile Survival Guide
By Peter Prestipino, Editor-In-Chief
People certainly love their mobile devices - some, it seems, are actually addicted.
According to a recent report by Yahoo-owned Flurry, nearly 280 million people worldwide can be classified as "mobile addicts," launching applications on their devices upward of 60 or more times each day on average. Believe it or not, however, mobile still has not reached critical mass - at least from a business perspective.
In a March 2015 study by Endurance International Group, 78 percent of U.S. small businesses indicated they did not have a mobile solution or application, despite the fact that 71 percent felt having one would ultimately have a positive impact on their business.
The primary reasons for the lack of adoption is that it takes time, money and expertise (and often, a lot of all three). These barriers are rapidly being eliminated however. Most of the enterprises surveyed by Endurance expected to overcome these challenges sooner than later, with half of respondents revealing they planned to begin investing in mobile solutions within the year.
As enterprises take their first steps toward greater involvement in the mobile realm, it will be necessary to focus on the wide variety of features and functionality that help resolve the obvious challenges.
In this edition of Website Magazine, readers will find just that - guidance on the key areas to address and some suggested practical solutions to not just survive, but thrive with their mobile presence.
SURVIVAL TIP: Plan accordingly by replicating the mobile success of others. Get inspired with five brands making mobile work today at wsm.co/5mobilework
Mobile Strategy & the Modern Digital Experience
The cause of most brands' mobile failure isn't necessarily in the execution as there are numerous technologies available to ease the complexities of the transition. Rather, it's in the strategy (or lack thereof).
"The smartphone has become a very personal device for its users, and the content interaction has become just as personal, so mobile marketers, brands and ad agencies need to rethink their approach," said Ari Brandt, CEO of MediaBrix. "With all of this real-time data available to us now, it's important for us to target our users at the right moment - when they are emotionally receptive to the content, such as in times of need, reward or encouragement. Once this emotional moment is determined, brands need to understand how to not only acknowledge their customer's current state of mind, but also make sure the content they are offering is contextually relevant."
The problem is that many brands simply consider "mobile" a scaled-down version of the desktop presence - an approach that can limit the impact this unique experience can have on users and the potential benefits it can provide to the company's bottom line.
Content Tips for Mobile: Content means different things depending on whether a company is an information publisher, service provider or e-commerce merchant, but with nearly half of all activity occurring on mobile devices it is imperative that more than just the design is optimized for users - the content itself must also be optimized for that same experience. Discover a few content formatting tips for mobile at wsm.co/formatmobile
What this ultimately means is that the manner in which consumers use mobile is complex and it needs to be treated as such by today's enterprises. Companies (and their designers) must create mobile experiences that cater to how users actually consume content on their smartphones. That means understanding that users rarely, if ever, engage in "deep dives" into content, and will almost always avoid lengthy purchase or engagement paths (arguably one of the reasons for the seemingly perpetual problem of mobile abandonment). Knowing this, what approach should developers, and the brands they represent, take?
When mobile websites and applications are built around very specific experiences (for example, with targeted user flows for purchasing products or retrieving information), they are better positioned to acquire revenue for their business and provide better service to customers.
Most, however, fail - sometimes miserably - in the realm of mobile, and there's no hope of survival; they focus on mobile advertising revenue instead of engagement, provide experiences lacking significant context or that simply do not provide any genuine value whatsoever. Those who identify and address the new revenue and service opportunities that mobile offers are those positioning themselves to better serve and retain customers in today's digital world. Anything less and enterprises will fail to survive.
Mobile Design and Development
Developers have long had to make an important choice when it comes to their "mobile" presence (specifically their mobile application presence). They can either create apps that work on multiple device types - Android, iOS and Windows - with an HTML5 or "hybrid" mobile app, or publish native apps (those specific to each platform) for each device and operating system (which can be expensive and take time to build).
Fortunately, technologies are available that are making this a veritable non-issue. Thanks to a recent integration of the Ionic SDK into mobile app development environment Appery.io, for example, developers no longer have to compromise when creating apps and can build HTML5/hybrid applications on a single code base - apps that offer a native user experience across all platforms - and do so with relative ease. The technology solution should also prove compelling for those that find themselves challenged by this important decision as the platform lowers the required skills barrier considerably, empowering a broader base of developers and business analysts to create effective and rather intuitive mobile applications.
SURVIVAL TIP: Should your enterprise develop a native mobile application or a mobile website? Check out this infographic (via Usablenet) which guides businesses through this important decision at wsm.co/usableapp
Appery.io is not the only solution of its kind, of course; find alternatives at wsm.co/3appbuilds.
Mobile apps may not be the best choice for every brand, however; often, a mobile website satisfies the demand from the increasingly mobile audience of users. Fortunately, most of today's top content management systems and e-commerce platforms have been retooled for the mobile age. There are, of course, numerous considerations that must be made in relation to mobile Web design. Check out an infographic on the top nine features consumers want on mobile websites at wsm.co/mobilewebfeatures.
The right strategy and approach to a digital presence are important first steps, but they are far from the final ones today's brands will make if they aim to survive (and thrive) in the future. They will also need to think about what users will experience on their smartphones - and that means thinking about content.
Regardless of whether digital interactions are occurring on mobile devices or desktops (or tablets for that matter), one thing is certain - content is what will make a positive (some would argue, the ultimate) difference to the user's experience. Many of today's digital-minded companies understand the value of content for this new mobile age and have been quite active in terms of delivering on that expectation and its corresponding reality. In many ways, that is the result of some very powerful offerings like Adobe's Digital Publishing Solution (DPS).
Adobe's latest release (July 2015) shows that the company has its sights set squarely on marketers and their future in the realm of content development. The former version of DPS was already quite well received by the digital community. Thousands of apps have, in fact, already been created with the platform (including those from some big name brands, like Audi).
Seventy-five million unique visitors engaged with these apps, spending upward of 173 million total hours interacting according to Adobe. The new version of DPS, however, takes digital publishing to an entirely new level for those looking to create immersive apps without being forced to write code. Some of the new features and capabilities include continuous publishing (pushing new content in real-time and integrating with content management systems including Drupal and WordPress, as well as EM - Adobe Experience Manager - which is part of DPS), push notifications, in-app messaging, social network integration, built-in analytics (powered by Adobe Analytics Essentials for Publications) and a new accounts control system that enables organizers to assign permissions to each person involved in the app creation process.
SURVIVAL TIP: Discover three tactics for prioritizing content for mobile users at wsm.co/mcontent3
As 'Net professionals might imagine, however, there are numerous other technology solutions available that are helping brands optimize users' content experience in whatever form it may come and in whatever environment (offline too).
Shoply Labs, for example, recently announced several new partnerships with beacon-based proximity marketing companies in the U.S. Through these partnerships, the Shoply app will be able to deliver hyper-contextual content and promotions to shoppers. The partnerships enable Shoply to cover 300 malls, 3,700 storefronts, 1,200 in-store placements, and 1,200 standalone and big-box retailers. Consumers will have access to exclusive content and discounts through the app from top retailers including Ann Taylor, Kohl's and Lord & Taylor.
Shoply is doing more than just delivering on the promise of a better shopping experience with time and location-relevant coupons, content and promotions. By onboarding beacon-based proximity marketing partners, Shoply is positioned to take it to the next level, potentially enabling brands to remarket to the users they've interacted with in the offline, brick-and-mortar realm. This may not be too far off in its future, either, as many other ad tech companies have already optimized their remarketing solutions for the age of mobile. Marin Software, for example, recently introduced a new and rather innovative solution that will make it possible to retarget the high-value users that stop using (or abandon) mobile applications. The offering, dubbed Perfect Audience Mobile Retargeting, identifies users' in-app actions, and then automatically serves them ads across smartphones and tablet devices to bring them back. The product is an expansion of Marin's existing cross-device retargeting program and by the looks of it, should help app developers address (and hopefully resolve) issues such as mobile monetization and user retention.
Marin's solution will provide advertisers transparency into the applications where their ads are served, insights into the in-app audiences that drive the most revenue, access to impressions from mobile advertising exchanges, and control over ad recency and frequency to guard against fatigue. Retargeting users is certainly one way to keep users coming back to the mobile presence that has been developed, but often, advertising to those consumers directly is a more effective way to ensure a brand's future survival.
There are numerous complaints about mobile advertising - mostly related to the negatives associated with the experience for consumers - but ad tech companies are innovating. Google, for example, introduced several new mobile advertising formats this year including those specifically for automotive, insurance, mortgage and travel brands. The automotive ads feature a carousel of images that users can swipe through and also include a link to a list of nearby car dealers, while the travel vertical ads feature "book a room" functionality for hotels and online travel sites. Consumers can also now search more easily for nearby businesses, which will return a pack of up to four local business ads with directions and/or click-to-call capabilities.
Google's Call-Only ads now even display a phone number in the headline and clicking anywhere on the ad prompts a phone call, which can be counted as a conversion. There are some ad formats, however, that just don't work very well on mobile.
A Google study of its own Google+ site and app found that while 9 percent of visits to an interstitial page resulted in the "Get App" button being pressed, 69 percent of visitors abandoned the page when presented with the app interstitial. Google then ran an experiment to see how removing the interstitial would affect product usage - and the results were impressive. Google replaced the interstitial with its Smart App Banner and found that one-day active users on their mobile website increased by 17 percent. As a result, Google said it was eliminating the use of interstitials as a practice and was suggesting others do the same.
As Google's research reveals, there is clearly a better way to approach advertising on mobile devices, and as an industry, it is slowly being revealed. Mobile ad platform Ubermedia, for example, recently released a new system that helps marketers boost the relevance and performance of their local mobile ad campaigns.
The Location Visit Optimization (LVO) system leverages real-time data of people physically visiting locations (much like the aforementioned Shoply Labs). With its machine-learning capabilities, advertisers' mobile ad campaigns can be optimized for what matters most - real-time, real-world location visits. LVO integrates with UberMedia's proprietary "Place Context Learning System," which makes sense of where the mobile consumer has been. In addition, the system integrates with Uber Media's programmatic bidding tools and mobile ad serving. Together this data is leveraged to automate and accelerate decision-making and deploy the right ads to the right audience, reallocating ad spend to maximize foot traffic. According to Uber Media, brands that have already leveraged LVO, including national fast-food chains and automotive advertisers, have seen location visits more than double.
What advertising provides is an opportunity to get users, mobile users in this case, closer to the end of the purchase funnel, and that's not always an easy task.
It's been a long time coming but mobile buying is by far one of the most interesting developments of the past few years. E-commerce platform MarketLive recently released results from its Performance Index report, measuring the buying behavior of consumers shopping online during the second quarter of 2015, and it provides evidence that now is the time for retailers to focus on mobile. The Q2 data showed that small-screen shopping experiences are finally engaging enough for mass-market consumers, who purchased 335 percent more via their smartphones than they did in Q2 a year ago. Surprisingly, the retail sectors that showed the strongest uptick in sales from smartphones are catalog (+374 percent), brick and mortar (+207 percent), and furnishings and housewares (+163 percent) indicating that traditional retailers are beginning to effectively leverage the digital ecosystem.
"Consumers have shifted their buying patterns to mobile commerce faster than many retailers realize," said Ken Burke, founder and CEO of MarketLive. "We're now seeing merchandise traditionally purchased in-store, such as home furnishings, are increasingly being purchased online from smartphones. And, shoppers are seeking out their favorite brick-and-mortar brands online and expecting their websites to work on any device. We're calling this trend 'Commerce Anywhere the Customer Wants it,' and the more agile retailers and category leaders are outpacing their competitors by constantly adapting to - and embracing - a retail landscape where technology, consumers and markets are evolving at breakneck speed."
There are many other examples of platforms helping enterprises capitalize on mobile, but networks like Google are also making a digital impression.
SURVIVAL TIP: Start measuring mobile; discover some of the top mobile analytics solutions, and many other popular mobile resources, in the August issue of Website Magazine at wsm.co/top50mobile
The recent Purchases with Google experiment, offered to a few dozen retailers across a number of industries, will make these companies eligible to display "Buy on Google" ads next to the product image in Google's PLAs (product listing ads) on mobile devices. Users will be able to click on the ad and buy from a gateway page using payment information stored in their account. Google is far from the only contender in the space of course. The Google Buy Button follows a trend with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest all in various stages of testing how to make mobile shopping easier, better for consumers and more profitable for advertisers. Learn more about this exciting trend and some useful tactics for leveraging social commerce at wsm.co/socialbuynews.
Thriving, Not Surviving, in the Mobile Age
To excel in the mobile landscape, brands must understand how users want to interact, develop experiences that speak directly to that need, and position their brands and companies in a way that is both engaging and easy to consume. Mobile can change everything for today's enterprises, but they must be ready and willing to invest in the future of their companies and the success of their users.