For brands, when it comes to mobile shopping, the smart money is on the mobile web. While I get more requests for app development over mobile website development to the tune of 5 to 1 from brand managers, it amazes me how much top brand and marketing execs ignore all of the data that proves out the effectiveness of a mobile web presence. Apps are great, and they are a necessary part of the mobile marketing eco-system for sure, but brands are simply ignoring the value of mobile web at their peril.
In its most simple terms, smartphones (particularly the iPhone and Android handsets, which together make up over 70% of the entire smartphone device universe right now), are just small handheld computers that have operating systems and browsers. As these smartphone browsers get better and better, more and more people go their mobile phone first when looking for web content. Think about it: How many times a day do you use the internet on your phone when you are already sitting in front of a computer? I do this more than I realized. When I was thinking about writing this post, I took the time to jot down how many times a day I do this at my desk and I counted 5 times. That’s 5 times that I used my iPhone for a web search when I had a perfectly good PC two inches from my fingertips. I don’t think I am all that unique in this regard – and this is the kind of behavior that you cannot ignore: your customers are looking for you on mobile phones more than you likely realize. And if they have a lousy experience, they will never come back.
If the experience is good, the results are better than traditional web. Look at the Neilsen charts below.
These numbers are compelling as they show that people are far more likely to make a purchase via a mobile website than a shopping app. These are 2011 holiday shopping stats – and these numbers show two compelling things:
1) Trusted brand and mobile web equals mobile sales. Amazon, not surprisingly is the clear winner here as they are the leader in overall digital sales and the most trusted web based retailer right now. But what’s really interesting is that once the trust barrier is breached, people will use their phones to make purchases. They see no difference in the choice of device. What we are also seeing is that people are now viewing mobile phones as a means to help make impulse buys at POS that they once were unable to act on.
2) Having a mobile shopping engine on your mobile site allows shoppers to act at the point of sale – when they are in the buying mind.
A mobile website should be table stakes for any brand at this point. Why brands are not making this more of urgency escapes me, frankly. I see brand marketers making huge investments in mobile apps (which again, I feel are a key component of any solid mobile strategy for sure) but not putting the proper emphasis (urgency + dollars) into their mobile web presence.
Here’s my personal prescription for brands on mobile web:
1) Establish a web presence, like, now! Even if it’s a decent landing page that simply acknowledges the user and offers a web-ready experience that is better than displaying your main website. The landing presence should contain simple calls to action that are appropriate for your brand, like, product info, contact us, store locator, and, if possible, buy now.
2) Measure it – Once this mobile presence is established, apply standard measurement and analytics practices. How many hits, what call to action are users choosing, how long do they stay, do they come back ,etc. Simple.
3) Establish a more sophisticated mobile web strategy – Now that the basics are done, use this time to build a solid mobile web experience. Are you a lifestyle brand? Are you a service brand? What are your customer’s mobile habits? What are the reasons that they will be coming to your mobile site? Where are they coming from? Searches? QR codes? TV Spots? What are they looking for? What is the funnel strategy? Do you have an ecommerce engine – and can it be backed into the mobile site? Do you have a retail presence? You get the idea. We are seeing that once brands get this stuff worked out, their mobile web investments pay off in dividends from a branding and sales lift perspective.
4) Loop this into your overall mobile strategy – How do all of your mobile assets work together? Does your app development strategy leverage the mobile website? Where are you running mobile rich media? Where do your media lead customers to? Are you channeling your customers effectively across the mobile ecosystem? (basic principle: mobile web as acquisition, and mobile app as loyalty and service).
There is no excuse for brands not to invest in mobile web as core part of their 5 to 10 year marketing plans. Ignore it and you will lose equity to those who appreciate the importance of this channel – particularly to the younger demos – 18-35 year olds who are in some cases ‘mobile only’.