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Mobile: The Future of Digital [FEATURE]

The role of mobile devices in the modern Web experience is undeniable. With the prolific rise in smartphone use, today’s brands must think and be “mobile-first” in every way.

There’s no question that mobile is the future of all things digital, but todays ‘Net enterprises are quickly falling behind, often either underprepared or feverishly trying to keep pace.

What’s the right way forward?

Grasping the Scope of Mobile

The increase in the number of mobile phone users over the years has been, by every measure, simply stunning. By 2019, for example, over five billion users will be mobile ready (source: Statista). Compare that to 2016 when an estimated 62.9 percent of the population worldwide owned a mobile phone, or 2014, when around 38 percent of users had smartphones. Incredible, right? What this ultimately shows is that mobile is here now and in almost every regard, is the way of the digital future.

In this month’s Website Magazine feature, readers will receive an overview of important considerations they must make to survive and thrive in the mobile future and some solutions to help them accelerate their digital success.

To get started, it is first important to get a true grasp on how mobile has changed the way consumers interact with brands, as well as the challenges and opportunities the medium presents.

The Mobile Consumption Experience

The rise of mobile over the past decade has impacted the consumption of brands’ media/digital assets in significant ways.

Consumers tend to spend mere seconds on average with any given piece of content on mobile devices, but upwards of half of US adults check their phone 30 times per day. How can brands stand out among the virtual noise and make an impact? Simple. Build for the mobile experience.

One of the most interesting developments of the mobile Web the past few years is that it tends to be increasingly visual. The most frequently used apps in the US, for example, are photo and video apps – from YouTube to Instagram. As consumer behavior shifts, brands must find a way to deliver experiences that engage; and there are some interesting, exciting and innovative opportunities to do just that.

The “stories” style format, for example, has captured the attention of the Web. Social platforms including Facebook/Instagram, Snapchat and twitter have adopted the approach and now you can add one more to the list. Google recently announced the launch of the AMP Story Format and it has marketers and designers on the edge of their virtual seats.

Those familiar with similar “stories” formats at platforms like Instagram and Snapchat are those that will likely be most eager to adopt the AMP-enabled (more on that in the following design section) format. Publishers are essentially able to build image, video and animation heavy stories for the mobile experience that users on mobile devices can easily swipe through.

Google has partnered and is launching with the usual suspects including CNN, Conde Nast, Hearst, Mashable, Meredith, Mic, Vox Media and The Washington Post. Like all of AMP, this is an opensource project, and while there is no designated tooling available for development yet, it is actually quite simple to get started with creating an AMP story - at least for those with a basic understanding of HTML, CSS, etc. Google certainly provides some in-depth tutorials and guidance on working with the format, but Website Magazine has developed its own tutorial (wsm.co/ampstory) on setting up AMPStories so ‘Net professionals can deploy this potentially powerful engaging format efficiently and effectively.

When executed well from a design and content perspective, the “story” format in general will be appealing to users and could drive significant increases in interaction for publishers. Coupled with Google’s support, it will make the approach/format that much more appealing to publishers. Initially, however, expect adoption to be rather slow. As content management systems start to support it (either natively or through an integration), that will most certainly change.

What the introduction of the AMP-stories format shows is that design plays an integral role in developing an engaging mobile experience. There are many ways for brands to do this however without resorting to one more format that may or may not be supported in the future.

Mobile Design

Arguably the most dramatic change of shifting consumer habits (from desktop to mobile), of course, is the impact on design.

Today it is considered foolish to develop a website that does not address the mobile experience in some way and for most websites that means not just thinking “mobile-first” but doing so through the use of responsive or adaptive layouts.

Fortunately, most businesses have received the message. Today, over 80 percent of small businesses with websites say they are mobile- friendly. While that does not necessarily mean the experience is good (engaging or effective) it is certainly a step in the right direction – and far better than the low 30 percent of websites that were responsive just a few years ago.

What is becoming abundantly clear in the realm of design and development is that those with familiarity of all things mobile are those best positioned for the future. For those dragging their virtual feet and falling behind, however, there are many opportunities to get up to speed and ensure their success in the years to come.

Last year, for example, the Google Developers Certification Team announced the Mobile Web Specialist Certification, which aims to highlight those who have skills as mobile Web developers. These skills include basic website layout and styling, front end networking, accessibility, progressive Web apps, mobile forms, performance optimization, and caching, testing and debugging as well as ES2015 concepts and syntax.

Developers taking the exam will write code in a timed, performance- based exam (this is actually Google’s second performancebased certification, alongside the Associate Android Developer certification). The cost for the Mobile Web Specialist certification is $99 USD and includes up to three exam attempts.

Once proficient in the arts and sciences of developing experiences for the mobile Web, brands will need to turn their attention to optimizing their presence for consumers; and most savvy ‘Net professional will agree that this means concentrating their efforts on search engine marketing.

Mobile Search

There is a lot of confusion and concern surrounding how search engines, Google in particular of course, will analyze, assess and ultimately rank websites with the rollout of the mobile-first index.

Fortunately, there is not really that much that needs to be done on the part of companies to ensure their pages remain in the high positions they’ve achieved in the past as most have already made sufficient efforts in this regard – essentially, if your website is ‘mobile- friendly’ you’ve done pretty much all you can do.

What’s interesting about mobile search is that it really changes the presentation of the search results on smartphones. With limited digital real estate, search engines are focusing on presenting information that helps their users find the information they need more quickly. That’s no different than the desktop experience, so pretty much anything you read about optimizing for the mobile-first index is likely going to be little more than scare tactics to get you to use specific services.

If you’re optimizing for the user (focusing on speed, content and experience - read more at wsm.co/mobileseo) and not just the search engine, chances are very good that your business will be in a very good position for the future. True “organic” search however is far more limited than on the desktop (i.e. fewer available positions) and it’s forcing many companies to pay for the exposure they once received for free.

Mobile Advertising

With a limited amount of organic search opportunities, there has been a very dramatic and corresponding rise in mobile ad spending; upwards of 70 percent of digital ad spending according to eMarketer, for example, will be on mobile. 22 percent growth over the previous year however does not necessarily mean that brands are making the most of the available opportunities.

The problem with most mobile advertising formats to is that they have often been focused more on awareness than performance. Advertisers can target their ads based on users’ behavior and interests of course but most consumers still ignore them.

There are some formats emerging, however, that are designed to engage users in some rather rather creative ways.

AdSpruce, for example, recently launched Swipe to Engage, a mobile ad type that allows advertisers to connect with users by allowing (and incenting) the user to physically interact with the brand (swipe) and see what content follows the action. format could be used in a variety of ways, from starting a video to unwrapping a product on screen. This would likely be attractive to advertisers looking to create a more memorable ad experience by having the user interact directly with a brand within the ad spot.

Improvements in location technology are also proving increasingly attractive for marketers - particularly those in the brick-and-mortar realm - and it’s becoming much easier to leverage such capabilities.

GroundTruth, a technology platform used by brands to drive offline visits and sales by leveraging location as the primary source of intent, for example, recently announced its GroundTruth Ads Manager product, an end-to-end self-serve platform for mobile location-based advertising.

The system features the company’s Blueprints mapping technology and patented Location Verification algorithm and is quite unique in that it allows offline business to reach people based on their actual behaviors, such as an actual store visit - instead of using a boundary-based or radius-driven approach.

These solutions are but two of many hoping to attract advertisers looking to gain some momentum in the mobile channel – and it is coming at the perfect time as consumers are increasingly comfortable buying/spending from their smartphones.

Mobile Commerce

In the 2017 holiday season, mobile commerce revenue totaled $35.9 billion, an incredible 28 percent growth from last year’s mobile commerce total.

This year-over-year growth, revealed in data released recently from Astound Commerce, illustrates the importance of mobile’s current contribution to retail sales performance, and signifies that retail is, without question, in a new (and very exciting) era. To better understand the mobile commerce landscape and identify top performers, Astound Commerce Insights analyzed 25 mobile retail websites and 23 retailer apps in its 2018 Mobile Shopping Report. What did they find?

Researchers discovered that retailers mobile sites tend to be “more robust”, mirroring their desktop counterparts, while the role of apps centered on connecting customers across all channels and most importantly serving as the ‘ultimate’ in shopping convenience, particularly for frequent buyers. Some other noteworthy data revealed in the study provides some useful guidance for those e-commerce retailers looking to grow their revenue and deepen user engagement.

+ 96 percent of mobile sites had a “What’s New” section, compared to 78 percent of mobile apps. Fifty-two percent of mobile sites had a “Trending Now” section, compared to only 30 percent of mobile apps.

+ 84 percent of mobile web sites feature video and a strong 61 percent appreciate their role on apps. Only 30 percent of mobile apps offer a retailer’s blog (56 percent on sites) and guide adoption is favored 2 to 1 for web (64 percent vs. 30 percent on apps). This penetration suggests that apps are better used as purchase tools instead of curation or discovery.

+ 92 percent of mobile sites had a dedicated customer service section, compared to 74 percent of apps. Easily accessible contact information is scarce on both mobile sites and apps, with phone numbers available on the home page or via navigation on just 33 percent and 14 percent respectively.


Armed with some useful insights into developing an ecommerce presence for the mobile experience, brands can turn their attention to conversion – the ultimate sign that any experience – smartphone or desktop – is actually, truly effective.

Consumers have always been (and will always be) sensitive to price - humans are deal hunters; a fact that has not gone unnoticed. One of the best ways to capitalize on this reality, of course, is through the use of coupons and it is big business – particularly in the realm of mobile.

A recent study from Juniper Research, Mobile & Online Coupons: Leading Vendors, Technologies & Market Forecasts 2017-2022, revealed that the value of digital coupon redemptions will surge to $91 billion by 2022, up from $47 billion in 2017. The report also indicated that the mobile channel will be led by in-app coupon redemptions towards the end of the period, overtaking SMS; a channel which also continues to grow markedly well.

The largest volumes of coupon redemptions according to the Juniper data will be generated via app-based platforms by the end of the period, as providers see increased preference for the loading of both one-time and loyalty-based incentives for use in store. The three technologies with the greatest disruptive potential according to the study are chatbots, QR codes and invisible payments.

E-commerce retailers, however, will also have to rely on other mediums to ensure their message is contributing to the growth of their enterprise.

Mobile Email

Businesses that prioritize the mobile experience are starting to see the results of their labors in the form of more revenue.

According to data released recently by Yes Lifecycle Marketing, orders per click for desktop and mobile were equivalent at 3.3 percent (the first time that has reportedly happened),

In its most recent Email Benchmark Report: A Marketer’s Guide to 2018, the company revealed that in 2017 smartphone orders accounted for 46 percent of all email-driven orders, a 33 percent increase year-over-year (YOY). During the same period, tablet and desktop orders saw declines of 14 percent and 18 percent, respectively, indicating smartphone’s growing role in the customer journey.

While desktop and mobile are now equal in terms of conversion rate, desktop continues to drive higher AOV according to the report. Yes Lifecycle Marketing found that mobile AOV (average order value) remains about 40 percent lower than desktop AOV ($58 vs. $96, respectively) and this ratio has remained consistent over the last three years. What that ultimately means is that consumers may still value desktop functionality for larger purchases.

One of the most fascinating highlights from the study was that triggered emails generated more than double the open rate, triple the unique click rate, and almost double the click-to-open rate of standard emails; yet triggered messages made up only 2% of email volume in 2017.

Welcome to the Mobile Era

Mobile devices are here to stay and it is the responsibility of brands not only to design and develop experiences for this reality, but address the mobile expectations of users at every digital touchpoint.
Mobile Future
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