With increasing global smartphone penetration, and Nielsen’s recent report that the majority (50.4%) of all US mobile subscribers own smartphones (Source: Nielsen 2012 ), there’s no question we’re using our web-capable phones to search more than ever. We are certainly on pace with Mary Meeker’s projection  that the number of people accessing the web via a mobile device will surpass desktop by 2014. This data makes it surprising that the majority of companies out there still have not optimized their website for mobile devices. (Source: eCounsultancy 2011 )
So if you haven’t yet done so, it’s officially time to kick-off that mobile strategy. First, let’s consider some interesting stats about the mobile consumer:
- Mobile search queries have grown 5X in the past two years. (Source: Google, 2012 )
- 95% of smartphone users have looked for local information and 61% call a business after searching. (Source: Google, 2011 )
- 90% of smartphone searches results in an action – purchasing, visiting a business, etc. (Source: Google, 2011 )
- 74% of smartphone shoppers make a purchase. (Source: Google, 2011 )
- Mobile customers will likely account for $163 billion in sales worldwide by 2015. (Source: MobileCommerceDaily, 2011 )
- 40% of mobile users have turned to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience. (Source: Gomez, 2011 )
That last one is really important — 40% of your customers may be lost to competitors if you don’t have a mobile-optimized site! If your site’s not optimized for smartphones, chances are you’re losing revenue.
So let’s examine how to develop a mobile strategy and then we’ll take a look at some examples of mobile-optimized sites.
Before we dive in, let’s address the problem of the mobile user by reviewing the user experience of a site not optimized for a smartphone. Here is one I encountered while looking for a fun Saturday activity, a trampoline park! The site name has been obscured since it’s serving as an example only:
This is the worst offender to the mobile user-experience — a desktop site rendered on a smartphone is a pinch-and-zoom headache. Since they haven’t addressed their mobile audience, the content is not contextual. And since the content is too small, no smartphone user will be reading any of it, and certainly won’t be buying tickets here. And because it was meant for viewing with a desktop computer, there is simply too much information overall – wordy content and unnecessary navigation.
A simple fix would be to rewrite the content for mobile-specific context and reduce the navigation to address the needs of mobile users — Hours, Location & Directions, Tickets, Promotional Events, and Call Us. Also hiding the address bar saves valuable screen real estate for usable content. While I didn’t visit a competitor’s site, the nearest one would mean crossing county lines, I did use the Yelp app to help find the location and read reviews.
Based on the hourglass customer engagement model, Ron Jones outlines “6 Steps for Building a Mobile Strategy ”:
- Define target audience personas.
- Conduct research.
- Develop your mobile solution.
- Design your pricing model.
- Develop your support model.
- Develop retention and loyalty programs.
Developing a pre-purchase customer engagement in the first 3 steps involves addressing the needs of your target audience. It’s important to conceptualize your different media flows. What is our mobile value proposition from these channels and how can we build on our existing marketing efforts — Email, Coupons, Promotions, Offline Media? What is our call to action? What technology can be utilized to support it? How can we engage the user and how can we promote brand loyalty and advocacy? PPC? QR Codes? SMS? App? Social Media?
Once you begin to develop your mobile site it is imperative to consider the Mobile User Experience. UX is extremely important in any medium and is particularly true in Mobile Design due to the small screen real estate. The content should be brief and contextual.
Roughly a third of all mobile searches have localized intent — comparison-shopping, scanning reviews, searching for your location, sharing, etc. (Source: Google, 2012 ). Bring these activities forward and make them easy and obvious. If you are adapting content from your desktop site be sure to edit it for mobile relevancy. A great user experience will enable a user to scan content to find what they need quickly, and make a purchase within just a few clicks.
3 Examples of Good Mobile UX Design
Let’s get inspired by taking a look at a few brands that do a great job identifying mobile customer intent while also delivering a well-executed user experience:
Walgreens clearly understands the intent of their mobile customers, providing explicit navigation in a streamlined design. The navigation is based on their most popular shopping entry points as well as a few location-based options. The prominent “Find Near Me” link in the top addresses the needs of users looking for Walgreen’s brick-and-mortar locations.
What I don’t like is the Weekly Ad section repurposed from their printed ad where you need to do some pinching and scrolling. Since 40 percent of smartphone users redeem mobile coupons (Source: Mobile Commerce Daily, 2012 ), I would suggest they optimize this section for smartphones and perhaps add price-scanning functionality for in-store use.
Comcast has done a good job with this mobile-optimized site. The current offer is prominently displayed with a clear primary and secondary call to action. A trade-off for the prominent offer however is that the on-page navigation is pushed below the fold, so either you scroll down or use the nested Menu (top right).
I would suggest Comcast offer easy access to video content to their subscribers rather than just a link to Comcast.net. We know that 75% of users watch video content on their smartphones, and 26% watch at least one time per day. (Source: Google, 2012 )
Once again Target completely nails it! What’s truly outstanding is the use of scale — the copy and product photography work together for great readability. And in addition to the navigation in the header, there are 5 large bucket categories as you scroll down the home page — namely Top Rated Sale item, Weekly Ad, Daily Deals, Coupons, and Pharmacy. Each serves as a landing page with a corresponding Call to Action. And since the entire category area is a hotspot there is no need to pinch-and-zoom to select it.
My only suggestion to enhance user experience would be to use a static top menu bar so these link options are always present, and I would also like the option to pick-up from a local store. Overall Target does an incredible job at identifying intent of their mobile-user.
Development and Analytics
If you have a desktop site and simply want to repurpose the assets for mobile, there are sites like MoovWeb  or DudaMobile  that make it quick and painless. The latter is a mobile genie that allows you to leverage your existing web assets, providing templates and tools to publish a mobile-friendly site. If you’re starting from scratch and want more control in developing your site, it’s also a good destination to find additional resources .
Once you have a mobile site, you’ll want to separate mobile-search campaigns from desktop search campaigns. This will allow you to test, measure and develop targeted messaging for each platform. To set up your Analytics, check out How to Create a Mobile Marketing Dashboard in Google Analytics  by Richard Schneider.
Keep in mind that a successful mobile site is always evolving, so once you have accumulated some user data you will want to fine tune your site based on your findings.
- If Your Site Isn’t Optimized For Mobile, You’re Nobody: Words From a Designer  - June 28, 2012
- Why Mobile Site Optimization Matters- 6 Best Practices for Mobile Design  - November 28, 2011
- Creating Better Web Forms  - June 15, 2009