Mary Meeker recently invited us to ‘re-imagine’ virtually everything. The growth of mobile, an ever-more-sophisticated array of smartphone devices and tablets in addition to faster connection speeds is ushering in a whole new world.
Smartphones are of course another stage in the revolution that started in 1995. The real outcomes of this revolution are all around us with almost every industry being reshaped by new competitors and the global realities of the digital age.
While marketers have only recently carved out a digital budget from the traditional TV and print spend, the mobile era presents yet another challenge.
Too many businesses are still using old world media thinking and using digital media primarily as an extension of their offline media plans. Where’s the world of mobile re-invention and re-imagination in this?
Of course, brands have been quick to invest serious dollars on a splurge of apps and new opportunities to engage with consumers with a fast, crisp, seamless brand experience anywhere, anyplace.
However, I think that most businesses have failed to appreciate the true nature and magnitude of the shift to smartphones and tablets.
First brand touch point will be mobile
Yet we’re already very close to the point where more people access the internet via a smartphone rather than a desktop. Smartphones and tablet devices have changed our lives permanently. At some time very soon, mobile will be the very first touch point at which people experience your brand.
This point alone makes it imperative to have a mobile optimised website. In the mobile age, it’s not a matter of shrink-wrapping your regular website to fit the small screen. If you have a large customer base, then your mobile website truly has to be optimised for the greatest number of devices, and that means that the navigation is structured in a way that makes sense for the small screen and content is relevant for users on the go and displayed in a way that maximises the use of the available space.
To do this properly, you need to understand what your users actually need from you when they are mobile, and the devices they use. You also have to decide how you treat tablet users. And you need to understand responsive design.
Indeed, responsive design is not about HTML but about responding to the needs of your customers across devices. Given the investment you’ve already made in your website, ideally you would want to leverage this investment but present the content in a slightly different format depending on screen size or device. So when consumers switch from their desktop to a mobile device, the quality of their experience is consistent.
In this way you can give your mobile site users access to a comprehensive number of features that you already provide on your desktop website, but optimised for the mobile environment. Not only does this provide a consistent experience to your customers across all connected devices, but gives you the ability to provide your customers with access to browse your entire website content on the go. At the same time it gives you the reassurance that your mobile site and desktop website content and offers are always in sync. After all, who needs the complexity of managing separate content for your mobile and desktop websites?
In the mobile era though, it’s not just about websites. Another important decision you need to make is what you do about mobile apps. If the business case warrants an app – does this mean native or can you go hybrid? While there is certainly a need for native apps, many business cases are better served as a responsive website.
The decision comes back to what you’re trying to achieve. If you simply want to serve images and text to the largest audience possible, then a responsive site is a must. If the content requires user manipulation or utilises features of the device, then a native app is the way forward.
With audience reach and brand engagement starting on a mobile device, the market priority is to ensure that your customers always have easy access to the most critical content and features, on every device.