Today’s email is a guest post from Bob Watson, VP Sales at Digital Eye in Wilmington, Delaware. Bob recently joined Digital Eye after spending most of his career in the print business. Digital Eye provides mobile-optimized websites and mobile apps to clients around the world.
It finally happened this year. We dodged it as long as possible, but this spring, my family of two working parents and two active children found that our home life, was no longer spent at home. When we weren’t chasing paychecks, we juggled cars and kids to get to dance lessons, girl scout meetings and play-dates, running errands between pickups and drop-offs. Hurried minivan-meals displaced family dinner, and the rare event of a free weekend on the calendar beckoned us to pack up, strap in and get away from it all. The American Dream was all about finding home, kicking back and putting down roots, but we’re all doing a lot more running than rooting these days.
Marketers have noticed that we’re busier than we used to be, too. We’re avoiding their calls thanks to Do-Not-Call opt-out lists and Caller ID. SPAM filters eat their emails before they can make it into an inbox already bulging with unread special offers. Direct mail response rates suggest that none of us are opening any mail that can’t be immediately identified as a bill, birthday card or foreclosure notice. Even TV ownership went down this year for the first time after 20 years of consecutive gains — obviously, there are fewer of us feeling we can sit through the two-hour Biggest Loser finale to catch the ads for MickeyD’s and Subway.
So as a business owner, how do you reach your always-on-the-go customer? The great enabler of much of this activity is the ubiquitous mobile phone used by over 90 percent of Americans. By the end of this year, more than 50% of phones will be data-capable, web-browsing, app-savvy smartphones. Allowing consumers to get content and interact with it, on-the-go.
Factor in the rapid adoption of tablets (Nook, iPad, etc), and you’ve got the makings for a revolution. In fact, it’s already underway and happening faster than most of us even realize. In a one-year span from 2009 to 2010, access to websites by handheld devices nearly tripled, and it’s expected to do so again in 2011. By the year 2014, Morgan Stanley Research predicts that more of us will get online by tapping on our small-screen instead of typing on a keyboard.
Companies, organizations and even governments have to start thinking immediately about what this means to them. Make a point to check analytics for your website today, and look for the telltale rise in the last 12 months of access by handheld devices. Results vary widely across industries, but you should find a gradual increase in mobile visitors that today represents only a small percentage of overall visits.
This minute portion of your overall traffic may seem insignificant, but you might be missing something. Take the important step of putting yourself in the shoes of your prospects and customers. Pull up your own website on a smartphone. Actually pull it up on a couple different smartphones. Take a look at what they actually see. The four most common problems are:
- Type that is too small to read without zooming in
- Text or graphics that fall outside the viewing area, requiring the user to scroll in all four directions to take it all in
- Links or navigation buttons that are too small or too close together for fat-fingered touch navigation
- Inability to display flash-based presentations
If you see any of these issues, your site needs what we call “mobile optimization”, which can be a simple reformatting of your existing site content to facilitate access on handhelds. Check out www.cnn.com on your desktop and your phone for an example of how the same information seamlessly and intuitively flows into different platforms depending on your hardware setup. By making your site mobile-friendly, you’ll probably satisfy some pent-up demand in your market and see a renewed and rapid rise in smartphone visitors.
Take some time also to consider what’s differentiates a visit by an iPhone from a Windows 7 machine. While mobile users enjoy the convenience of the internet in their pocket, they’re limited by a small screen and touch navigation, so it’s important to think about why they have come to your site and what they might be looking for. Consider adjusting your site to give them easy, instant access to that information. A good web developer can help you to provide an alternate set of focused content for easy access by mobile devices. Empower the user get on, get the info and get back to their driving.
This trend has taken place very quickly, so if you’re like most businesses, there’s the immediate task of catching up with your market (and, perhaps, your competitors). But the payoff is well worth the effort. Once you’ve laid this foundation in your new mobile strategy, you’ll have a whole new range of high-potential utilities of which marketers could only dream a decade ago. It’s a dynamic, growing medium empowering you to communicate more directly with your customers on their preferred platform with a high level of personalization and robust metrics that begs for integration with your social media outlets and traditional channels.
Tell us what you found when you looked at your site. What phone type (Android, Blackberry, iPhone) had the best or worst version of your site?