What to Do About the Mobile Flash Clash?

There are many strong trends in the world of digital marketing, and near the top of any such list would be: 1) the rise of mobile consumer devices, usage, and access; and 2) the use of social promotions for brand and other marketing goals. Unfortunately, the two trends collide for marketers at this point in time due to technology limitations in some tablets and smartphones that rule out Flash programming. The wildly popular Apple products and many Android devices don’t support Flash, and while that is not all of the tablet or smartphone universe, it is enough of it to force marketers and developers to consider and create workarounds to the effective Flash applications that have proven so popular with consumers in social media, chiefly Facebook.

Consumers are spending more time in social media and are interacting freely and often with the branded content that marketers deliver in the form of casual games, contests, quizzes, and other formats. Flash is not the only way to build those engaging, interactive elements that keep consumers coming back to learn, play, and share, but it is a proven and efficient development tool that is ruled out for many consumers in mobile, now an important environment. Or is the environment handicapped because it can’t use a proven technology? We’ll let the hardware and software manufacturers continue to figure that one out while we marketers and consumers deal with the fallout.

What are our options to reach users in their chosen mobile environments and still deliver rich and effective content with fluid animation?

  • Build a custom mobile app. Mobile app development may offer more platform flexibility, but it comes with a cost. This is a big commitment, far different in development and maintenance requirements from the lighter, brand-based content we are discussing here and that brands may introduce throughout the year multiple times. Native iOS and Android mobile apps with Facebook integration also introduce the non-trivial obstacle of requiring the consumer to download the app before interacting with it.
  • HTML5 is emerging as a development tool that can be viewed across mobile devices but it is still a bit clunky in the wrong hands. Like any new technology the availability of talent and resources in this area is still scarce and therefore can be expensive. In the best-case scenario creativity and strategy are not limited by the tools.
  • Build a scaled-down mobile, web-based version of the desktop experience. Users don’t have the same robust expectation of a mobile version of the Facebook games they play on their desktop computers and the stats support the fact that the overwhelming majority of people are still interacting with this type of content via their desktop or laptop. Building a mobile version does introduce more cost but can connect with mobile users at some level and create the opportunity for ongoing dialog.
  • Rely on the desktop but include a notification for mobile users on first contact that alerts them that they need to play on desktop. It’s an inexpensive courtesy that avoids consumer frustration and confusion and encourages later interactions.
  • Use responsive design to cover all your bases. Responsive design is a good website solution, though it is commonly misunderstood to be an efficient way to get three products for one cost. In reality, developers still have to wireframe and design three separate versions (mobile, tablet, desktop) to inform the build. Responsive design is less effective for the kind of casual gaming we are discussing for many reasons. Well-designed tablet and mobile games require a full-screen, custom-tailored experience – not a game embedded on a scrolling web page.

Unfortunately, if your marketing goal is to reach consumers across platforms (including mobile) with interactive content, there is currently no good single solution to deliver engaging, animated, interactive content. Analyzing the mobile makeup of your current and desired audiences is a good place to ground your approach and to determine if a separate mobile experience is a justified budget item or if you should focus on building the best possible desktop experience and give consumers the information, a pathway, and a reason to visit you there.

How have you solved the mobile dilemma?

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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