Being "mobile" is now an essential element in Web success, and in many ways, it is the only way to be a truly modern digital enterprise. Users (consumers) are always on, actively leveraging their devices for information and entertainment, clicking and consuming at record levels. They are engaging with messages and interacting with brands in ways that are as unique to them as it likely is to your enterprise.
The digital industry is upwardly mobile - in more ways than one - and the savviest enterprises are strategizing and developing for this new reality.
The mobile Web is different from the desktop Web and those enterprises that understand the differences (as well as the opportunities and the challenges) are those that will stand the digital test of time. Today's enterprises must think outside the desktop box and cater to the new user - an individual that is more connected, more demanding, and more "in the know" and "on-the-go" than ever before.
In fact, recent Jumptap/comScore research into cross-screen behavior revealed that more than half of all time spent on the 'Net is now through a mobile device (12 percent on tablets, 39 percent on smartphones).
Let's change direction ever so slightly and first answer an important question: What does "mobile" really mean? The term can present quite the quandary for anyone attempting to capitalize on the trend. Smartphones (and Web-enabled dumb phones), tablets and the increasing number of wearable devices muddle the digital water for Internet professionals, leaving many of them wondering where they should focus their attention.
For the purpose of our discussion in this edition of Website Magazine, consider mobile anything that is not plugged into the wall, those technologies that restrict access to information and the ability to communicate digitally when away from connected devices (e.g. desktop computers).
Smartphones are really what has changed the landscape so dramatically (Google's Our Mobile Planet indicates that more than 56 percent of U.S. consumers now have smartphones) and as such will be the focus.
: The Always On, Everywhere INTERNAL User :
There likely have only been a handful of years in your professional career when a mobile device of some sort was not an integral part of the workday. As the business world evolves and organizational mobility becomes a greater priority within enterprises, bring your own device (BYOD) is a trend that is increasingly top-of-mind. Discover the secret to success with BYOD policies and three tips to make the transition seamless.
Fortunately for those interested in capitalizing on the now prevalent mobile trend, there are numerous examples of enterprises in both the business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) verticals that have gone mobile and are reaping the rewards. Not all marketers can lay claim to that distinction, however.
Results from email marketing solution StrongView's new survey indicate that many mobile marketers don't stack up in the sophistication department; 44 percent in fact are still strumming their virtual banjos in the digital backwoods when it comes to mobile, and more specifically, mobile with crosschannel components.
"It's clear that the vast majority of businesses understand the value of using mobile marketing to drive customer engagement and lifetime value, but they are struggling to implement sophisticated, cross-channel approaches that can fully leverage the strengths of this emerging channel," said Katrina Conn, vice president of marketing services, StrongView.
StrongView's survey revealed that mobile marketing adoption has increased 22 percent over the past year and is now being leveraged by more than half of all businesses (56 percent) in the form of mobile websites, mobile apps and mobile optimized emails.
The problem, according to StrongView, is that a lack of strategy and associated resources are slowing the growth. The good news, particularly for companies like StrongView, is that the more than 80 percent of businesses that do not currently conduct any mobile marketing initiatives plan to do so in the future, with at least half doing so in the coming year.
When these enterprises do come around to implementing mobile marketing initiatives, they will be best served by putting their users first.
One of the more common activities of mobile consumers is email. Experian Marketing Services recently revealed some interesting results from its Q2 email benchmark report: 50 percent of all emails are now opened on mobile devices. If that is not a catalyst to start moving in a mobile direction, nothing is.
"With half of all emails opened on mobile devices in Q2 2013, we noticed that people who open email on more than one device, two or more times, have a greater propensity to buy or buy more," said Peter DeNunzio, general manager for crosschannel marketing at Experian Marketing Services.
"Insight like this helps marketers plan the timing of their email marketing, and it's best to include reminders to customers to engage them when they are less busy and are more inclined to purchase. As such, it is important for marketers to leverage platform preferences and engagement metrics to identify key subscribers for future targeted offers."
It's not just the strategic plan or the increasingly large data layer that will prove vital in the success of mobile initiatives. The design and user experience that is presented will also play a role, and there are technologies aplenty to make it a reality. Email marketing service GetResponse recently announced an upgrade to its platform, which provides a feature that enables senders to design responsive emails with the solution's built-in Email Creator.
"Up until now, designers were faced with the daunting task of creating a separate mobile design for each newsletter using HTML specifications or pre-designed mobile-friendly templates, typically offered in a limited selection" said GetResponse Founder and CEO Simon Grabowski.
The GetResponse feature essentially adjusts the design for the recipient's device; resizing and rescaling elements including images, text and even column layout. All of the provider's 500- plus templates are already responsive, but GetResponse believes that giving email senders greater design freedom will be even better received.
"Responsive email design is no longer optional; it's a necessity," said Grabowski. "Today's busy consumers are quick to embrace new technologies and quick to develop strong expectations of how they should work. So unlike other providers, we made this feature available as a standard feature rather than a paid add-on."
Those that don't take the recommendation to develop mobile- friendly, responsive emails will likely see their success metrics suffer as a result. Mobile email warrants the attention of all Internet professionals - ecommerce merchants, service providers and information publishers.
While every email marketing platform worth its virtual salt enables its users to send responsive emails, it's important for each member of your marketing and design team to know the basics. Review Website Magazine Associate Editor Allison Howen's considerations for smartphone-friendly email campaigns in the Email Experience column, starting on page 34 of this issue.
Email alone, however, will prove insufficient for many brands. The majority will need to turn to the variety of mobile advertising options to raise awareness and drive conversions, selling their products and filling user databases with customers to which those brands can ultimately send email messages.
Mobile advertising is big business. In fact, U.S. mobile-local advertising revenues alone are expected to grow to $9.1 billion in 2017 from $1.2 billion in 2012 according to a forecast from BIA/Kelsey. This rapid growth is likely due to merchant desire to reach mobile customers in hopes of bringing them into their brick and mortar stores - and technology providers are offering solutions to do just that.
For example, Bing announced a deal with Local Corporation in which products from its Krillion shopping platform will appear in Bing's local search results. Participating retailers include some big names in offline retail, including BestBuy, Costco, Home Depot, Kmart, Nordstrom, Walmart and many others. Indexed products and some supporting data (a layer showcasing in-store availability, comparison pricing, current discounts and images) from these stores will be available on Bing - likely before the holiday shopping season kicks off in a few weeks' time.
Today's mobile advertising can be used to send customers to brick-and-mortar stores, to digital properties or entice them to download apps - the options are seemingly endless. So where else can marketers turn when they want to get mobile with their advertising?
While the first platform that will come to mind is typically Google there are many other ad networks that cater exclusively to mobile advertisers, providing access to larger audiences, robust targeting options and a diverse number of mobile ad formats. Check out a list of the leading mobile advertising networks in operations today including Smaato, Millennial Media, Jumptap, Zumobi and others.
Smartphones and tablets provide advertisers with a challenging, but potentially rewarding channel to promote their brands, services and products, but they're paying for the privilege. According to Covario's Q1 Paid Search
Spend Analysis, advertisers saw a 7 percent increase in costs-per-click prices, driven likely by mobile CPC inflation and Google's Product Listing Ads. The good news is that advertisers have some creative ways to capture visitors' attention and clicks.
Performance marketing network Tradedoubler, for example, has joined forces with mobile ad placement company Freespee and will use the vendor's technology platform and API to offer clickable phone numbers and analytics to both its desktop and mobile display advertisers.
"For services with local offices, like insurance, education, finance, health, beauty, travel, telecom and other utilities, 70 percent of consumers want to talk to someone before opening their wallets," said Carl Holmquist, Freespee founder and CEO. "Especially when advertising on mobile phones, a call is the natural next step after seeing the ad, and we make that call just one click away and totally trackable for conversion optimization."
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The rise in consumers' mobile activities is obviously making click-to-call technology an important, if not mandatory, element in the digital advertising mix. Those networks and agencies that realize the immediate benefit of the technology for users are signing on (as evidenced in the TradeDoubler/ Freespee partnership).
Google reports that mobile users are 6-8 percent more likely to click on ads that contain a phone number. And, even when mobile users click through mobile landing pages instead of phone numbers, Google's research found that 52 percent of those people go on to call the advertisers.
"The beauty of Freespee is we don't have to reinvent the wheel; we can add clickable, trackable phone numbers to our desktop and mobile ad formats with just a couple of lines of code," said Rob Wilson, CEO of Tradedoubler, whose network includes 140,000 website publishers and 2,000 advertisers. "For a large segment of our advertisers this is incredibly valuable because these ads on average convert six times better than a traditional online or mobile display ad."
To further accelerate their mobile advertising strategies, many brands are turning to solutions such as Drawbridge. The cross-device platform recently added a mobile-to-mobile retargeting solution that serves ads to users that fulfill criteria set by the advertisers.
For example an ad can be served to consumers who have turned off mobile app alerts or prospects that have not yet made a purchase.
Mobile advertising isn't limited exclusively to display of course - video provides another viable option; and by most accounts it is working exceedingly well. New findings from video ad provider ubeMogul show that click-through rates for pre-roll ads shown on mobile devices were 4.9 percent on average, compared to just 0.6 percent on PCs.
Advertising, whether mobile or otherwise, won't be the focus of many digital enterprises. Natural and organic search tops the list for most Web professionals as a means to acquire traffic for their websites.
Seventy percent of mobile searches led to action on websites within one hour according to a recent joint iAcquire/Survey Monkey report on user behavior. That's an opportunity your brand likely cannot afford to miss.
Thanks to soaring smartphone usage, mobile SEO is proving more important than ever before. There are barriers that exist, however, which could negatively affect the impression and traffic volume that result from pages already positioned on the search listings.
Responsive design, which is the recommended approach for websites considering going mobile today (more on that trend follows), has quickly become the default choice for most digital enterprises and their designers. The result is that most of the work done on desktop SEO initiatives will carry over and benefit mobile visibility as well (although there will likely be a need for some mobile-specific keywords somewhere along the line).
If you're currently using a responsive design, congratulations, your enterprise is ahead of the game. If you're a holdout to the responsive design trend and have decided to stick with a separate mobile website, there are methods available that can put you in the good graces of the mobile-minded search engines.
Websites that use separate URLs to serve desktop and smartphone users are most prone to having trouble with redirects, directing users from desktop pages to incorrect mobile URLs. As Google noted in June 2013, faulty redirects are one of the most significant barriers to success with mobile SEO.
Fortunately, there's a rather simple solution. If you're using separate mobile URLs, make sure to use the rel="alternate" tag on the desktop version of your site when pointing to a mobile URL, and the rel="canonical" tag on the mobile version when pointing to the desktop version of your site.
For those websites serving content dynamically or depending on the user agent, consider using the Vary HTTP header on those URLs that serve redirects automatically. Using this approach provides a hint to Google, in particular, about how to understand a website's configuration.
There are several other important elements to successful mobile SEO campaigns. Read through Website Magazine's new comprehensive "Guide to Mobile SEO" today.
The mobile advertising landscape is certainly not in trouble by any means, and there's no shortage of interest in achieving high rankings with organic SEO, but to develop an effective holistic experience for users today requires that the destinations upon which users arrive be mobile as well.
: The Latest APP STATS :
Mobile websites aren't the only option - native applications can also serve as a powerful way to drive engagement. But driving revenue through apps may just be a virtual dream.
Discussion surrounding mobile design and development is not lacking and it's important that every 'Net professional consider the impact their mobile traffic is currently having on their enterprise. Designing for the mobile experience is no longer an option, but a genuine necessity.
Popular grid-based, front-end development framework Bootstrap recently unveiled a new version that is proving appealing to both the aesthetic of the modern design, as well as their increasingly smartphone wielding audience. Version 3 is now "mobile first" and responsive by default, forcing designers and developers to think about how mobile websites will expand to larger screens, instead of paring desktop sites down for the mobile experience.
Bootstrap is growing dramatically in popularity, with source code search engine meanpath announcing recently that 1 percent of the 150 million websites in its index are now using the framework. Bootstrap is not the only responsive framework available. Zurb's Foundation is also earning its fair share of attention and use by designers and developers, as are the Gumby Framework, Blueprint CSS Framework, 960.GS, and Responsive. GS. Compare these responsive frameworks and their features on the 'Net.
Of course, not every enterprise is going to want to spend the time or resources necessary to transform existing desktop presences into mobile ones with responsive design. Many are eschewing the draw toward the mobile-first responsive site, opting for standalone mobile properties, leveraging tools including those listed in Website Magazine's recent list of "50 Top Mobile Movers and Shakers".
Companies including DudaMobile, MoFuse and FiddleFly are just some of the vendors that are supporting website owners' mobile initiatives. Website builder Jimdo has even released a native iOS app that makes it possible to create and edit websites on an iPhone or iPad.
There's more to a successful mobile Web presence than just using a framework or a DIY website builder. Find out which brands are doing mobile design right.
: Monetize the Mobile Experience :
The drive toward going mobile would likely be much more compelling if there were well-defined methods to monetize the mobile experience. The industry is only nascent, however, and digital media workers and ‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë‚àö‚â§Net strategists are still testing ways to drive revenue from the mobile experience. Discover five ways to monetize the mobile experience now.
Well-designed, mobile-friendly emails, mobile advertising and mobile-minded SEO certainly play an important part in your organization's success, but what happens after the click obviously warrants some attention as well.
According to Baynote's Holiday Predictions survey, it is mobile that retailers hope will lead them to a happy holiday season in 2013. Baynote research indicated that 53 percent of retailers expect mobile transactions to account for a significant part of their holiday revenue, and 38 percent believe mobile will drive renewed in-store interest that will lead to increased revenue.
Statistics abound about the proliferation of smartphone and the subsequent rise in transactions. Business Insider indicated that 29 percent of mobile users have made purchases. So what is keeping the remainder of the ‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë‚àö‚â§Net population from using the mobile Web as a means to purchase products or services?
According to a 2012 Forrester report, the answers are safety and security - upward of 50 percent of online shoppers worry about these issues and it's driving merchants to consider solutions which alleviate those concerns. The process of - and platforms for - accepting payments are top-of-mind with Internet professionals. So, what should you know?
"Shopping Cart abandonment is one of the biggest problems for online shops," said Andrea Anderheggen CEO and founder of Shopgate. "There are many reasons for a customer to interrupt his or her shopping process: the price, the bad user experience, or trust."
The mobile commerce platform recently announced they have partnered with Trust Guard, a provider of website security, privacy and business verification seals, hoping to correct at least some of the issues surrounding users' purchasing behaviors.
It is well documented that offerings provided by Trust Guard and others prove useful in reducing consumer anxiety over the credibility of digital enterprises, which leads to some serious problems for merchants - like abandonment. But how do payments made on smartphones differ from payments from the desktop for end-users?
"Most smartphone owners have used their phones while in a store to compare prices, search for coupons, research product features and read reviews," said SheerID CEO Jake Weatherly. "Consumers who shop from their smartphones are comparison shopping in the same manner that they would at home on their desktops, but the evolution of secure, trusted mobile payment technology has empowered them to complete their purchases on their smartphones instead of waiting until they get home to place orders from their desktops or driving to other stores to get the best prices or ideal products."
Weatherly suggests that payments made from smartphones need to be based on stored information, using loyalty accounts or customer accounts established previously online. Weatherly provides Uber, Hotel Tonight and Amazon as apps that provide an ideal experience for mobile purchases, making it almost easy to buy. Discover more mobile retail insights from SheerID's Jake Weatherly.
: Measuring & Optimizing Mobile :
The mobile Web isn't just changing how websites are designed, developed and promoted. How digital brands measure performance is also changing - and changing dramatically. Discover the best ways to measure mobile and the leading tools on the market to optimize the mobile experience.
The future of mobile is here, right now, and is an integral part of every single aspect of digital success, from design and development to marketing and analytics. To be truly upwardly mobile, brands must deliver experiences to users that are as valuable to them as the desktop Web has been.
That's not always an easy task but the digital rewards are immense.