The author’s posts are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
This post is based on a presentation I gave in October at SearchLove London 2013. The full slide deck is embedded at the end of the post. Also, use this link to watch the video of the presentation for free!
Lots of people can tell you why you need a mobile–friendly website. And lots of people can tell you how to build one. Including me. There have been countless posts and articles and guides written about how to build a mobile-friendly site, and how to optimize it for search, and how to track mobile visitors, and why mobile is important.
So at this point, most people would agree that having a mobile-friendly website is a basic requirement for any online brand:
If you’re just starting to think about it, you’re falling behind. And you don’t need me to convince you. Instead, I want to talk about what happens next. This post will cover some big-picture trends, case studies, examples and tactics, but the overall theme is “online everywhere.”
By the year 2017, it is predicted that 85% of the world’s population will have 3G coverage. (It could be even more; initiatives like Facebook’s Internet.org campaign have the goal of bringing internet access to 100% of the world’s population.)
Mobile data in the year 2012 was 12x the size of the entire internet in the year 2000. In other words, it grew by 1200%. And by the year 2018 it is expected to grow 12x again…meaning the rate of growth is now twice as fast as when we started (12x growth in 6 years instead of 12).
What all of this means is that we’re becoming more connected than ever. And mobile is now a channel which can empower you to reach people you can’t reach any other way, as the number of mobile users worldwide is set to overtake the number of desktop users in 2014.
We are increasingly living in a multiscreen, device-agnostic world.
And this means that “mobile” can’t just be an add-on anymore. My boss Will Critchlow likes to say “there’s no such thing as mobile.” I would disagree slightly: I’d suggest that instead, “there’s no such thing as mobile for the user.”
Mobile is not a separate channel; it’s a technology. So although at this point there’s “no such thing as mobile” for the user, don’t be fooled: Making it easy for users is really hard. We can’t be lazy. What we need to be doing is asking the right questions.
What does this look like? Let’s take 3 scenarios: Companies A, B, and C.
Company A (call them the “Average Joe Corp.“) are asking the question: “how do we do ‘mobile’?” And this means they’ll be getting answers based on what everyone else is doing, regardless of whether it’s right for them or their users. For example:
- a separate m. website
- an app
- SMS promotions
Company B (“Early Adopters Ltd.“) have a slightly better question: “how do we stay ahead of the next big mobile technology trend?” They’re not interested in what everyone’s doing already; they want to be ahead of the curve. So they’ll end up investing in things like
But Company C is different (let’s call them “User-Driven Business, Inc.“). They’re looking at it from a different perspective: a user-centric one. They ask: “how can we take advantage of new technology to anticipate our users’ needs?”
We all need to become more like “User-Driven Business, Inc.“, because our customers are people, and technology is for people. Instead of asking about how to ‘do’ mobile, or how to stay on top of new technology, we need to have the mindset of making mobile a core part of the customers’ journey, and keeping the user at the center.
Which looks something like this:
Phase 1: Discover
77% of mobile searches now take place near a PC. What this means is that mobile devices are rapidly becoming the device of choice, even when other options are available. And with new behaviors like sequential screening and multiscreening, mobile is increasingly an integral part of the customer’s discovery phase. 90% of users use multiple screens sequentially to accomplish a task over time, and 98% move between devices in a single day. Smartphones are the most frequent ‘companion’ devices used while multiscreening (i.e. using multiple devices at the same time).
So the first big trend we need to be aware of here is the need for a seamless and consistent user experience across all devices.
There are three main areas in which mobile technology impacts on the Discover phase:
We’ve all heard the people who say that responsive design is always the answer. And responsive design is fine. But it’s a basic approach. And if you don’t approach it properly, you can end up with a subpar user experience.
Starbucks made a beautiful responsive website; but on the smartphone version the ‘BUY NOW’ button has dropped to the bottom of the page, under many many reviews, a video and other non-essential content.
- Consider using dynamic serving instead of pure responsive: this allows you to serve different HTML based on user agent, while maintaining a single URL for simplicity.
Think in terms of “content everywhere:” the concept of “Create Once Publish Everywhere,” discussed in more depth in the book by Sara Wachter-Boettcher. “Content Everywhere” is a system which allows you to relate different types of content using markup for a more search- and user-friendly approach, regardless of the platform used to access your content.
- CASE STUDY: BBC Food used this approach for their recipes and saw an increase of more than 150,000 visitors weekly from search alone and overall traffic doubled, from around 650,000 weekly visitors to around 1.3 million. (data from Content Everywhere book)
- Use long-term cookies for login: keep people logged in longer and remove the extra step of needing a sign-in each time your users visit your site
Sync user accounts across all platforms:
- a great EXAMPLE of this is Amazon Kindle: if you leave off in the middle of a book on the iPhone app, and then pick it up on your Kindle, it will know where you last left off (cross-device)
Test, test, test: start by visiting your site on a mobile (or use the built-in emulator in your favorite browser).
- TIP: Make sure you test for all the devices your customers use, or at least the majority (you can find out what these are from your analytics data).
- Mobile CRO and user testing: there are loads of tools available for this type of testing; three that we like at Distilled are Qualaroo, CrazyEgg and Optimizely.
The first big trend to keep in mind when it comes to search and discovery: it’s the same person regardless of device. So context and user intent become more important than asking whether it’s a mobile phone or a laptop.
Bravissimo used a tool called WeatherFIT to customize their PPC campaigns based on individual user context. Basically they would only show lingerie and swimwear ads to users who had sunny/hot weather in their area.
Results: 600% increase in PPC-driven sales revenue and 103% increase in conversion rate.
Google is huge for online personalization and context-based content:
- Google Implicit Search can understand the context of a query (such as ‘how tall is Justin Bieber?’ followed by ‘how much does he weigh?’) and return the correct answer.
- Google Now aims to provide you the information you need before you ask for it (such as bus times, weather, metro service information, etc) by figuring out where you are and what you are doing.
This leads us to the second big trend for discovery via search marketing: anticipating your users’ needs before they themselves are even aware of them. If you can do this, you will be getting your brand in front of a whole new audience.
But social is tricky, because brands no longer own the conversation. And the first big trend we see in social marketing is that permission’s not enough anymore. There is now so much content and so much information available that we don’t have time to read all the emails we sign up for. This has led to ‘filter bubbles‘.
You’re probably all familiar with the Mark Zuckerberg quote: “A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.” This may sound extreme but the mindset it shows has a very real impact on our marketing efforts.
Between technology (like Facebook’s EdgeRank, which shows more content for pages we engage with more frequently) and the people our customers follow (who only share and curate the content they find worthwhile), we need to be thinking in terms of peer-to-peer marketing if we want to have any hope of our target audience even seeing our content. One quick sense check for this is simply to ask yourself: “is it good enough to tell my friends about it?”
A final point: make sure any content you want to share via social channels is also mobile friendly. Given that 80% of these users are on mobile devices, you don’t want them to be faced with this:
- Allow your social media team to engage in a conversational (rather than a salesy or overly formal) way.
- Create content which people will want to share.
- Ensure that all content for social sharing is mobile-friendly.
Phase 2: Explore
Once your users have discovered your brand, that’s just the beginning; they may need to explore their options a bit more before deciding to purchase from you. And you need to be aware of that whole journey from start to finish.
There are four main areas impacted by mobile in the Explore phase:
- Online/offline integration
Stop tracking each session as if it’s a different user. Instead, track people throughout their journey from start to finish – irrespective of device.
In the image above, wouldn’t it be better if we knew that:
- The 3 online visits + single conversion (CID 111, 222 and 333) and the offline visit + conversion (CID 444) were actually
- One person using 3 different devices plus making an in-store visit with a second conversion (UID ABC)?
It’s easy to panic about showrooming (when people look up your products in-store on a phone and find lower prices online from your competitors).
But this sort of thing is never a good idea:
…and it’s unnecessary. Instead, we should view showrooming behavior as an opportunity; to reinforce the value that our products and our store provide.
In 2012, Best Buy decided to tackle showrooming head-on: giving specially trained staff members tablets to search comparison sites for the lowest price, and allowing them to match that lowest price in order to complete the sale.
Results: It was successful – I don’t have exact metrics, but in February 2013 they rolled out a permanent price matching policy based on the positive results of this pilot.
Personalization is huge, and especially so on mobile devices which are much more ‘personal’ devices than most (think how frequently laptops are used for work/school, desktops for families or in other shared environments like libraries – but smartphones are primarily used by individuals in leisure time).
- Implement a recommendation engine for your logged-in customers. You can also do a form of this with non-logged-in users – Medium are a good example of this.
LK Bennett recently ran a campaign using the Qubit tag management system to personalize their website content by user context. The first test was targeted at UK-based visitors who had not purchased online within nine months, but had visited the site more than three times. These users were shown a special offer for free delivery if they were about to leave again without purchasing.
Results: an 11% increase in conversions from that visitor segment. Another test offered UK visitors free 14 day returns, and this saw a 14% conversion rate increase.
4. Online/Offline Integration
Because mobile devices are portable, there are many more opportunities for integration between the online and offline worlds via mobile devices.
What does this mean? The obvious example would be something like a QR code in a print ad or on a billboard. A more sophisticated version is something like Debenham’s virtual pop-up stores at famous UK landmarks, which users scanned with a special app and then were able to view and order clothing (after virtually trying it on, of course!).
My favorite example of online/offline integration is from IKEA:
Example: IKEA catalogue app
IKEA created an augmented reality app for their recent catalogue, which allowed users to use their device’s built-in camera to try out how different pieces of IKEA furniture would look in a given location in their home.
All of these examples – Best Buy encouraging showrooming and matching the lowest price, IKEA allowing people to ‘try out’ the furniture before they buy, and LK Bennett providing personalized offers about shipping and returns – play into the overall brand experience of your users, and help to determine whether they decide to buy from you or not. Basically, these are all different ways of helping potential customers past the “uncertainty” phase and giving them the extra little push to feel confident that they’re making the right choices.
Ultimately, whatever examples we use, the big trend for the Explore phase is to recognize the value of every touchpoint/interaction along the customer journey. The purchase isn’t the only thing that matters anymore. …and last click attribution is the devil.
Phase 3: Buy
This is all very well, but…what about the actual conversion? Well, the big trend here is to make mobile checkout EASY.
There are two main areas we can improve in order to engage mobile users more effectively in the purchase process:
- Smarter checkout paths
- Online/offline integration (yes, again!)
1. Smarter checkout paths
We need smarter conversion paths for mobile. My rule of thumb for this is KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. 😉
For phone number fields:
<input type=”tel” />
for a numeric keyboard, use this:
<input type=”text” pattern=”d*” novalidate />
for any email fields, use this:
<input type=”email” />
to disable autocorrect:
<input type=”text” autocorrect=”off” />
- Keep people logged in long-term: The fewer steps people have to take to complete a purchase, the less likely they are to abandon it. Mobile devices (smartphones in particular, tablets perhaps less so) are often only used by a single individual, so it is often much more convenient to use websites and apps which don’t require a login every time. By using persistent cookies (on websites) and saving password details in the phone (for apps) you make the process easier for your users.
- Don’t neglect microconversions: It’s all very well trying to convince people to make big purchases via mobile; but don’t forget about the smaller stuff. Things like email signups and social sharing are very important and sometimes don’t work well on mobile devices.
2. Online/offline integration
If you have a physical store location(s), in-store mobile payment can also add convenience to checkout.
If you accept PayPal payments, you can allow people to use the PayPal app to checkout in-store as well as online.
Phase 4: Engage
Once your customer has purchased, you may feel that you can relax. But you’re not home free yet! You need to keep customers engaged with your brand and your services/products even after they purchase in order to turn them into repeat customers and, eventually, brand advocates.
There are three main areas in this phase which are important for mobile:
- Email marketing
The first question you should ask yourself if you’re considering creating an app is: “are you sure you need one?”
The benefit is, of course, that it’s a walled garden. The downside is that it’s a saturated market: there are 900,000+ apps in the Apple Store and over 1 million on Google Play. And despite the high volume of apps, only a few rise to the top: 10% of all iPhone app store revenue in Nov 2012 came from only 7 apps. So unless you really do need one, it’s not worth the extra effort and hassle.
How do you decide? Ask yourself, does my app (idea):
- Add convenience?
- Offer unique value?
- Provide social value?
- Offer incentives?
These are the attributes of a successful app. If it doesn’t do any of these things, you shouldn’t build it.
Tesco Homeplus, in South Korea, are an excellent example of how to use apps to retain customers (and this is also a great example of using online/offline integration in the Buy phase). As a mid-/large-sized supermarket brand (trying to compete against a bigger rival), they knew that their target customers were very busy, working very long hours and lacking free time to go shopping for groceries. So they created a ‘virtual store’ in the subway, which allowed app users to scan items they wanted to purchase and checkout on their phone. If they did this before 1pm, the groceries would be delivered to their home that evening.
Results: their sales increased 130% in three months, and their number of registered users went up by 76%
Ultimately, the key when it comes to apps is creating a unique experience and meeting a specific user need. If you can’t do this with your app, you probably don’t need one.
2. Email marketing
62% of emails are opened on mobile devices. So email marketing is mobile marketing. And remember, you can send push notifications via email (dependent on the user’s settings) which gives them a benefit we might have associated previously only with apps or SMS promotions.
Send emails your customers want to open
- Example: Innocent Drinks are a great example of email content which is fun, full of their brand personality and regardless of whether I always have time to read the emails, I never consider unsubscribing because I don’t want to miss out on it.
Use mobile friendly templates: MailChimp and Campaign Monitor are two services that offer this.
- TIP: If your preferred provider doesn’t offer this, you can use one of these services to build your email and then export the HTML into your preferred provider’s template.
- Test your email campaigns: we like Litmus; there are also other options.
Social isn’t just part of the discovery process; it’s also a great channel for maintaining customer loyalty.
Example: Red Bull Wings
Red Bull have an incredible social campaign called Red Bull Wings. They monitor mentions on Twitter of keywords like ‘allnighters’, ‘midterms’, etc; then contact the tweeters to mail them a care package containing a Red Bull 4-pack and a personalized note.
This is just one example; but the big trend with post-purchase social engagement is: make current customers feel appreciated – and make it individually personalized, if possible.
I’ve covered a lot of things in this post, so now I want to share a campaign which I think pulls a lot of these together. It’s a great example of how to merge the online and offline worlds…but more importantly, it’s an example of one of the key takeaways from this post: the value of extreme (individual) personalization and context recognition.
BMW’s MINI Salutes You (part of the #MININotNormal campaign)
I love this campaign because it keeps the (individual) customer at the center. It makes great use of personalization and context, as well as online/offline integration. And it hits the ‘post-buy engagement’ part beautifully by showing loyalty to current customers.
Results: As part of the online aspect, it also had great social reach (as you might expect). That video alone (part of a larger campaign) showed 1,941 offline customers were reached during that time…but there are 58,139 views (to date) of the video on Youtube. (The main campaign video has 1,661,042 views.)
So … what are the final takeaways?
Well, to “do mobile” right:
- Make it a core technology
- Keep the user at the center
- Ask yourself: “How can I use mobile technology to anticipate and fulfill my users’ needs?”
You might be thinking, “surely these are all just marketing principles, though”. Well that’s TRUE.
Because mobile isn’t separate anymore. In some ways, it’s just another “browser”, and we need to test and optimize and create content for it just as we would for any other browser. This won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. So let’s buckle up and enjoy the ride!
How do you think we should be approaching the rise of mobile technology in 2014? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Here are the slides from the presentation this blog post was based on:
If you’d like to watch the presentation video (for free!), head on over to our video store page using this link: http://dis.tl/1hqEyd3. With a free account (just a username and password), you’ll get free access to the video to download and stream at your hearts content.
If you enjoyed this post and the presentation video, you might also be interested in our upcoming SearchLove conference in Boston—particularly in the session by Adam Melson, titled “Listening to Your Customers’ Wants to Achieve Their Needs.” It’s happening Apr 7-8 at the Joseph B Martin Conference Center. We’d love to see you there!
About bridget.randolph — Bridget Randolph is a Consultant with online marketing agency Distilled. She is particularly interested in the way that developments in mobile technology and social media affect our online experiences, and how these changes impact the nature of digital marketing.