Mobilizing the Web Should Be Brands’ Top Priority

What’s the biggest challenge in mobile marketing today? Many would say that’s like asking which star in the heavens is the twinkliest, or which grain of sand on a beach is the grittiest. But I think there’s an answer, at least from the perspective of brands’ embrace of mobile.

Too many companies still believe that because smartphone browsers can render web content, their existing website can serve them equally well as a mobile landing page. In reality, anyone who has navigated to such a PC-optimized page on a phone knows that while the content may render, web pages designed for PC screens will be squashed down, requiring the viewer to “pinch and pull” to zoom in on sections of a page. Some components may not appear at all. And the whole thing may be unappealingly slow to load. The user experience can be adequate, but it’s hardly enjoyable, and companies that rely on it miss opportunities to build better relationships with their mobile customers or prospects.

In any brand’s mobile strategy, building a mobile- (and in particular smartphone-) optimized version of their website should be priority one. Other things can seem important: a good app fosters high interaction rates; mobile display advertising can give great reach; location-based ads have unsurpassed relevance; messaging is ubiquitous. But for someone looking for basic information on a brand by searching or typing its URL into a smartphone browser, the page that comes up is critical, and for many companies it remains a missed opportunity to serve their mobile audience.

In the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB’s) recent Mobile Phone Shopping Diaries study, a desire to find product or service information was the most cited motivator of mobile commerce interactions. If a bad mobile web experience prevents consumers from finding what they seek, that can translate directly into sales lost. (Note: I work at the IAB.)

What does the IAB mean by a “mobile-optimized” website? Four things:

  • It should be laid out appropriately for smartphone screens, with no pulling-to-zoom required.
  • It should rearrange content, prioritizing things mobile consumers need (e.g., store locators, up-to-the-minute information) and downplaying or stripping out ancillary features.
  • It should have as small a file weight as possible to render quickly via mobile networks.
  • It should eliminate Adobe’s Flash technology (which most mobile phones don’t support), particularly for site navigation.

To examine the missed mobile opportunity, the IAB accessed the corporate websites of the Fortune 500 on a smartphone, counting which returned optimized offerings. As of May 2012, 275 companies, or 55 percent of the Fortune 500, had a mobile-optimized corporate website. Another 56 (11.2 percent) lacked a corporate mobile website, but had them for subsidiaries or brands. For example, Yum Brands hadn’t yet optimized its corporate site, but Taco Bell’s site is mobile friendly. Finally, 169 of the Fortune 500 (33.8 percent) had no mobile-optimized websites at all.

If 45 percent of the Fortune 500 lack a mobile-optimized corporate site today, it’s likely to be even more the case with smaller firms. Even those that recognize the importance of going mobile may simply not know how. That’s why the IAB has just launched a new initiative: “Tap Into Mobile,” which reviews why mobile is important, shows how an existing, PC-oriented site fails mobile users, and provides a directory of service providers and solutions that can help a brand optimize its mobile web presence.

When it comes to mobilizing the web, questions abound: What about tablets? How many screen sizes/resolutions should designers optimize for? How fully baked is HTML5? Will responsive design solve all our problems? And on and on. Starting with the basics, the IAB hopes that “Tap Into Mobile” helps further the industry conversation as companies make getting the mobile web right a central part of both their mobile and digital strategies.

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