Don’t Shrink – Rethink
Just when you thought your organisation had all the bases covered with its website, another revolution comes along. Even your most neo-Luddite friend is either considering buying, or has already bought, a new smartphone. In Q1 2011, Ofcom reported that 27 per cent of UK adults owned a smartphone, and this figure has now risen towards 40 per cent. Nearly a third of UK adults (32 per cent) now use their mobile to go online.
Other trends include the expanding array of devices and operating systems coming to market. Alongside the early frontrunners, Apple and RIM (Blackberry), in the six months to September 2011, Android smartphones from HTC, Samsung and others accounted for 44 per cent of new smartphone purchases.
Once you have your smartphone, of course, you need apps, and there is a bewildering choice available. 60 per cent of smartphone users have used an app, and the average user has 24 apps on their device. To complete the picture, add the rise of internet-enabled Tablets to the equation - according to IMRG, tablet use in the UK doubled in a year, with 8 per cent of UK consumers now using a Tablet as their main method of going online.
Meeting the needs
So how is your organisation adapting to meet the needs of smartphone users? What currently happens when a mobile user visits your website? Are they served with a standard desktop-based site or one that is more mobile-friendly? Does your marketing team know the types of devices accessing (or attempting to access) your site?
What information do mobile users download from your site? Are they Tablet users, surfing from home while watching TV and benefitting from high-speed home wireless broadband access, or mobile users struggling to gain any bandwidth as they commute on the train home? All these questions need to be addressed.
Even if you believe your site is never going to be a destination for mobile users, the trends suggest you simply cannot ignore smartphone usage – it is not uncommon to see mobile web users account for 20 per cent of a company’s website traffic. For many businesses, this figure has trebled during the past 12 months. Tablets contribute a lower amount, but can account for a reasonable amount of traffic. Most importantly, these figures will only continue to grow.
Standard sites can be frustrating for smartphone users – this is why we say: “Don’t shrink - re-think”. When a mobile user is presented with a ‘full-fat’ website, they often have to pinch and zoom to read tiny text. They require fingertip precision to select the required options. Navigational features like drop-down menus can be rendered impossible to use, and on top of all this, sites are often slow to download.
Yet in spite of all this, a recent report found that 70 per cent of client-side and agency digital marketers were still not looking at producing a dedicated mobile site. Why not? Let’s take the retail sector as an example, in order to examine the different approaches being taken to the mobile web.
All the major UK supermarkets - Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Tesco, Morrisons and Asda - have dedicated mobile websites, while most also offer dedicated apps. Every brand offers a tool to locate the nearest store and display the latest offers. But while Waitrose has an extremely stripped-down mobile site focusing on recipes, Tesco offers a wide range of options, not dissimilar to its full website.
For any mobile-optimised site, the basics must be addressed. Smartphones lack the processing power of PCs, and access to a truly high speed data connection is rare (53 per cent of mobile networks deliver between 1-3 Mbps). This means you can’t afford to have a mobile site where the pages take a long time to load. Because mobile users have little patience when it comes to waiting for page loads. Abandonment rates rapidly climb within the first three seconds. Your site needs to be data-light, so that it downloads within a second, but it also needs to focus on the essentials that a time-pressed, on-the-go smartphone user would benefit from. Some of the best business examples are those that reduce their mobile websites to just six to eight key pages.
Furthermore, mobile devices have different screen and browser sizes, so to avoid the need for the user to adjust the web page, the site needs to take these variations into account. This can be achieved by utilising the device description sent by the phone, and tailoring screen sizes specifically, or by using fluid/responsive design principles that can detect the browser size and adapt automatically.
Fat finger syndrome
Another issue is ‘fat finger syndrome’, where the user presses the wrong button or enters a word incorrectly. Making navigation simple is critical. Apple provides advice with its Apple Human Interface Guidelines, which ensures there is substantial finger space built into the design. This steers away from clickable, mouse-based controls and presents information in a clear and logical way.
Once away from the basics, the mobile web really does present brands with an amazing opportunity to exploit a new, vibrant and expanding channel. Leading web content management systems (CMS) help offer device-agnostic sites which can sense if visitors are arriving via desktop PCs, smartphones or Tablets.
The depth of mobile analytics available to marketers is rich, and can include a variety of information, including details such as GPS location for localised marketing. Analytics should help marketers to gain the insight for developing strategies and optimising their mobile campaigns. This could include integration with customer relationship management (CRM) systems for developing profiles of mobile users, to facilitate the delivery of personalised mobile content.
For many brands, creating a mobile-friendly site is the first step on the mobile web journey. Understandably some brands choose to go straight for a dedicated app, but an app should not be a simple repeat of your mobile site.
Choosing the app route has its own pros and cons – the software is stored locally on the smartphone, so it functions quicker, is easy to download, and only requires a single button press to launch. Obviously, it can also directly generate revenue from user purchases.
The mobile revolution
Great examples of apps leading the mobile revolution are those that push the technology to the limits. Heineken, with its Star Player iPhone app is a strong example. It turns Champions League football into a fast-paced, immersive experience that places the user together with thousands of other football fans within the Heineken community.
The key message is to not be one of the 70 per cent of brands and agencies currently ignoring the growing wave of smartphone users. We all know that within a short space of time, they will emerge as a dominant user group, as desktop and laptop usage begins to slowly wane.
Through some simple first steps, your organisation can begin its journey, catering for the needs of this fast-growing user group. Keep the content relevant, accessible and optimised for the mobile audience; only then can you truly yield the benefits of the mobile channel.
Laust Sondergaard is chairman of Sitecore UK