We’ve reached an inflection point in terms of mobile Internet usage.
Globally, there now are more people browsing the web from their smartphones than there are people surfing from a traditional desktop computer. Overall, we now spend 86 percent of our time online using our smartphones, according to statistics from mobile marketing firm Smart Insights. Roughly 25 percent of people browse the web exclusively on their phones.
Even with less screen real estate than personal computers, mobile is also taking a big chunk of the ecommerce pie. More than half of all ecommerce traffic now comes from mobile, according to statistics compiled by Radware, and smartphone ecommerce is growing 48 percent faster than ecommerce overall.
There’s a reason why Google lowers the search engine ranking of websites that don’t have a mobile-optimized website; mobile matters — a lot. Winning at mobile is not a given, however.
Building a mobile version of your website is not enough anymore.
When creating a mobile strategy, businesses also must take into consideration performance, mobile engagement, voice interactivity and network bottlenecks, among other considerations.
Here are five keys to creating a strong mobile strategy:
Mobile Strategy No. 1: Skip the mobile website
There are three main options when building for mobile: a dedicated mobile website, a responsive design that adapts according to the device accessing it, or an app that users download for their phones.
While a mobile version of your website was the first approach to mobile browsing, this has been supplanted by a responsive design and/or an app if you can afford it.
The reason for going with responsive design instead of a mobile version is largely because maintaining separate versions of a site is cumbersome, it introduces confusion when a visitor accesses a site from more than one device, and nobody can design for the form factor of every device today — there just are too many.
Responsive websites are able to adapt to various users’ screen sizes and devices — whether smartphones or desktops — making responsive design a much more flexible and convenient option than creating a mobile-only version of your site along with a desktop version.
However, if your business has the resources, offering a native app for the two major smartphone platforms, iOs and Android, is a smart bet.
Not only does having an app allow for greater interactivity and responsiveness with features that other formats can’t provide, having your businesses app always on your consumers’ smartphone screens is a constant reminder of your brand — which may be worth the cost of building and maintaining your app.
Mobile Strategy No. 2: Focus on performance
Having a slow website never is good. Having a slow site on mobile is a death knell.
When a site takes more than 3 seconds to load, 57 percent of mobile users will abandon it. What’s more, 80 percent of these visitors will never come back. AppDynamics also found that 86 percent of people in the U.S. had deleted or uninstalled an app because of performance issues.
Site and app performance are crucial on mobile; sites must run as quickly and elegantly on mobile as they do on a desktop, ideally faster.
The key to good mobile performance is solid use of content delivery networks (CDNs) that cache content close to where users are requesting the data. CDNs use scalable hosting solutions that can meet spikes in demand, with focused attention on the load times of all external libraries, embedded code and other components that might slow down a site on mobile.
Mobile Strategy No. 3: Include mobile-friendly functionality
Mobile browsing is convenient, but it isn’t as easy as browsing from a laptop. When implementing your mobile strategy, make sure your site includes functionality that plays well with the mobile browsing experience (which can be all the more tricky if you use responsive design).
Specifically, offer capabilities for email and text-based marketing campaigns, and make social sharing prominent. Make product purchasing easy since nobody wants to go through a lot of work when buying from a smartphone. Include click-to-call functionality so that mobile customers can connect with the business easily. Also consider integrating with Google Maps if your business has brick-and-mortar locations or other geographic information.
Mobile Strategy No. 4: Prioritize voice over touch
Increasingly, mobile users prefer to talk to their applications instead of tapping them. For businesses, this means making it easy for customers to ask questions and communicate with a company verbally. Here’s what Tony Zhao, founder and CEO of video chat company Agora.io has to say about it:
“In-app communications definitely makes it easier for mobile users to interact with a company. When mobile users don’t have to change applications to interact with a company, they are more likely to follow through with the communication and not get sidetracked along the way.”
Enabling click-to-call voice or video calls within your app or website is easier than you might think. There are several click-to-call SDK’s (Software Development Kits) that provide you with a few lines of code and easy to follow directions. All you do is copy and paste the lines of code into the backend of your site or app and just like that, the feature is integrated and your customers are better connected to your business.
Mobile Strategy No. 5: Mind the bottlenecks
Businesses are on shaky ground when it comes to mobile. On the one hand, mobile users are fickle and will abandon a site or app if performance is slow. On the other hand, cellular connections are often unreliable.
Businesses that win at mobile pay close attention to their network infrastructure and optimizing their mobile design so connectivity issues don’t overly penalize them.
In practice, this means focusing on quality of service guarantees and making sure that all content and web services are optimized for variable connectivity.
Mobile has quickly overtaken the personal computer as the Internet device of choice. It is up to businesses to recognize this and make sure they are ready for this shift in behavior. Smartphones are wonderful, but the user experience is different than on a personal computer. Businesses that succeed will do so on the mobile landscape and adapt to these differences.
What are some other things your business needs to do, to be the best in the mobile arena? Please share in the comments.
Peter Scott contributed to this article. Peter is a journalist and editor who has been covering business, technology and lifestyle trends for more than 20 years.