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Mobile Web – Trend or Reality?

2014 MHEDA Critical Impact Factor Number 12
By Brian Bluff

Bluff MobileEvery aspect of online marketing seems to change every few years. How you reach your customers, the way you track and maintain leads, and even who your customers are: it’s all in upheaval. Is there anything certain? In a word: yes.

Today, just about everyone has a smart phone or tablet. We all use them to accomplish tasks throughout our work and personal lives. When it comes to getting so-called “serious” work done, it’s true that we still turn to our laptop or desktop computers. But when it comes to getting vital work done, you’ll use any tool that’s at hand. When you’re in the field or at the factory and need to look up a part number or search for a quick solution, you’re not going to run back to your office to use a computer. You’ll use the smartphone that’s right in your pocket; and so will your customers and prospects.

MHEDA’s 2014 Critical Impact Factor #12

“Members need to develop a strategy to utilize, implement and measure the benefits of web technologies, mobile apps, online marketing and social media as business development tools.”

Need I say more?

How We Use Mobile Devices
Numerous studies show that mobile devices account for about 30% of Internet traffic, yet mobile sales and conversions percentages tend to be much lower. According to Marketing Land [http://mklnd.com/1tS0Z5T], one reason is, “the cumbersome nature of the mobile checkout experience.” Another likely reason for the lower conversion rate on mobile is that mobile users, by definition, tend to be busy or out in the field, and thus less ready to pull the trigger on a purchase or fill out a form. They will return, though, on a desktop or laptop computer to execute on their purpose-driven mobile research.

One piece of accepted wisdom is that mobile devices are great for consumption. Reading a news or Twitter feed, looking at photos, or playing a quick game. BuzzFeed famously gets more than 50% of its traffic [http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/01/sit-back-relax-and-read-that-long-story-on-your-phone/283205/] from mobile now. That figure is emblematic of the sort of things that smartphones and tablets excel at: consumption in all forms, from funny lists to long, engaging written content.

It’s not that people don’t do work or aren’t creative on mobile. But, unless there’s a great app for it, filling out cumbersome forms, typing in credit card numbers, and most work in general is an awful experience on a smartphone or tablet. The good news is that there are many good apps and mobile websites. The potential bad news is that your site may not represent one of these good experiences.

Mobile Traffic by the Numbers
There are two prevailing attitudes you can hold when it comes to mobile traffic.

On the one hand, you could say that mobile traffic has low value, that it’s not serious. We all know that ignoring successful new technologies is how great companies stay ahead, right? No! Rather, you should recognize that mobile traffic is growing hand over fist, and figure out how to take advantage of it.

Take a look at the Google Analytics data. A normal (as in around average) bounce rate is between 40% to 50%. [http://bit.ly/1uiHkcL] That means about half the visitors to your site will view just one page and then leave. That figure increases for tablets by about 10% and smartphones bounce about 10% more than tablets. There isn’t anything particularly special about mobile visitors – they mostly reach your site via Google or a link someone shared with them. So why do they behave so differently? More importantly, does mobile traffic represent a point of pain rather than a source of increased leads and revenue?

Most distributor and manufacturer websites attract roughly 2,500 to 3,000 visitors per month. That means by not catering to mobile visitors, you are automatically turning your back on about 250 to 600 potential customers every month. Now there’s some real pain.

Getting Started With a Mobile Website
How do you start harnessing your mobile traffic? The first thing to look at is whether your site is even designed for mobile. There’s nothing worse than visiting a website on a tablet or smartphone only to discover it’s full of complex menus, verbose and tiny text boxes, or worst of all, powered by mobile-hostile Flash.

“Good” for a mobile website could mean being responsively designed; that is, designed to dynamically resize text and images based on how large the browser window is. Or, you could have a separate version of your site that’s optimized for mobile. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds, since your webmaster can set it up so that the site automatically detects whether your visitors are mobile or desktop and serve them the correct version. Some sites can get away with having only a desktop version that offers a good mobile experience, but that calls for more finesse when it comes to creating content.

In general, you’ll want to create content that works well for both desktop and mobile. If you only have one version of your site – responsive design or not – you need to account for visitors on the go and at their computers. Either way, it’s generally better to have succinct copy that’s easily understood. Visitors don’t want to read large blocks of text and specifications lists no matter how they’re browsing.

Another thing to be careful about is online forms and popup windows. If you generate leads through a form, you’ll want to use as few fields as possible. Even as mobile web browsers improve, filling out forms is a painful process. Popups are another often-useful device that doesn’t translate well to mobile. Avoid them at all costs for a good smartphone and tablet experience.

According to Nielsen, Americans use their mobile phones more than their computers, and there’s no sign of this trend slowing down. You’ll either take advantage of this information, or your competitors will. The first step is to figure out if your site is mobile friendly.

How can you tell if you’re serving your visitors on tablets and smartphones? Here’s a free service [http://bit.ly/1miPFYB] that will show you what your site looks like on nine different screen resolutions including a number of the most popular smart phones and tablets.

What are your options to fixing your site? You can dive into the messy details here [http://bit.ly/1tS4FEw]

 

Brian Bluff is the president and cofounder of Site-Seeker, Inc., an Internet marketing firm specializing in SEO, SEM, social media and web development, with a strong focus on the B2B manufacturing and distribution arena. Together with his brother, Eddie Bluff, vice president of key accounts, Brian has grown the company into a successful source of search engine and social media marketing solutions.