Mobile Marketing / Mobile Trends

Why Australian Business Should Go Mobile First

Mobile friendly websites are all over the news this week.  Google has just rolled out a significant change to their search algorithm that gives a ranking boost to mobile friendly pages.  In a nutshell, if your website can be easily read and navigated on a smartphone without zooming or horizontal scrolling, it will be boosted in Google’s search results.  Unplayable content, text that you have to pinch and zoom into to read or links that are placed too close together will penalise your pages.  According to local search analysts, more than half of Australia’s largest companies will be impacted.  Websites with the most relevant content may still appear in search results, but mobile friendly sites will receive a boost over their less mobile friendly competitors.  The message from Google couldn’t be clearer.  If your organisation is not prioritising mobile customers, it will be penalised.

According to the CIO of the New York Times, the shift to mobile is so rapid that many companies are in danger of under-investing in mobile. The landscape has certainly changed fast for media organisations. Content and news publishers have needed to reinvent themselves quickly to survive. But are they any different to anyone else in business today? It’s true the revolution has hit some industries earlier and harder, but that’s not to say it won’t ultimately hit the rest. Very few industries are immune to the radical changes taking place around us in the world today.

Marc Frons from the NYT has written a great post explaining what they are doing to become a mobile-first company. When you’re in publishing it’s hard to miss that your customers are looking for your services elsewhere. Last year mobile traffic to the NYT topped 50% for the first time. They predict it will be the dominant platform with as much as 75% of their audience in 2 or 3 years time. This is a significant change in customer engagement and you’d be a fool to look the other way. But in many other industries it has been possible to cruise along without paying too much attention. For many in professional services, retail, health, construction or trades, the shift to online and then mobile has had limited impact. But that’s all changing.

In Australia nearly 90% of adults now have a smartphone and 60% have a tablet. More than half our digital screen time is spent on mobile devices and more than half have purchased something on a smartphone. A lot of the time we spend on our smartphones and tablets is devoted to consuming content.  While the New York Times is clearly in the content game, how relevant is this to other kinds of businesses?  Mobile content may be more important than you realise as a tool to attract and convert customers.  While less than 49% of Australians have read a newspaper on a mobile device, a whopping 78% have browsed the internet,  68% have searched for products and 45% have purchased a product or service using their smartphone.  Disturbingly, more than a quarter of Australians have decided NOT to purchase something in a store based on a smartphone search.   Content is not just a media game.  Even if you’re not in the content game, customers now expect to use their smartphone to find you, engage with you, choose and learn about your products & services and even pay for them.

Mobile payment tools should be a priority for local businesses, and if you pay for advertising, you’d be missing a substantial chunk of your target market if you left mobile off the media plan.  Almost all high end mobile devices now have large screens and fast connection speeds.  The Australians mobile audience is media ready and highly engaged. You may not need to reposition your entire company to reach your mobile customer base, but some fundamental changes may be required to protect your business and capitalise on its changing audience.

Even if your business bears no resemblance to a media company, Australian customers now expect to find content about brands, products and services using their mobile devices.  The New York Times approach offers some valuable lessons for all of us. Here I’ve summarise some of the key elements of the NYT mobile first philosophy that are probably relevant to most businesses in Australia today:

  • Look at customers on mobile devices differently – it’s not just the same story on a small screen.
  • Develop unique rules for product development, marketing, advertising and technology for mobile customers
  • Make mobile top of mind for your employees
  • Make content production as platform-agnostic as possible.
  • Create tools and technology specifically for mobile
  • Develop advertising experiences specifically for mobile.
  • Remember that mobile is a push medium, and notifications are crucial to encouraging usage
  • Focus on personalization.
  • Move fast. Apps have a 2 – 3 year lifecycle. What you see working in the market now will be at the end of its life in a few years.
  • Allocate at least 50% of your digital investment to mobile. Not 5% or 10%. More if you have some catching up to do

In some industries, and particularly in small business, digital technology is leapfrogging online and going directly to mobile. If you’re yet to invest in a website or digital advertising, it may be wise to skip online and go straight to developing your mobile interaction model.  If you’re already using TVCs, you’d be better off going straight to mobile with recent reports identifying an average CTR almost 3 times higher for video ads on smartphones and tablets than on laptops and PCs.   With ad recall of 38% on smartphones and 42% on tablets in Australia, there’s no reason not to go straight to mobile.

Mobile First thinking used to be a helpful theoretical exercise.  Marketing and IT departments would use it to develop theoretical scenarios with a focus on mobile users.  The exercise would help guide the ultimate development of a more effective online solution.   But Mobile First is no longer just theory.  According to Brian Solis in a recent article for Advertising Age “At this point, mobile-first may not be enough. To be successful, brands and agencies must think beyond mobile campaigns and start to think about mobile-only as a complete foundation for the next generation customer journey.”

If Mobile Only is the new theoretical exercise then Mobile First is the new reality.




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