It is no secret that we live on our mobiles.
Consider the telltale and eerie glow on the faces of the caffeine-fiends at your local Starbucks. Consider the surveys that say smartphone users rely on their devices for 221 tasks a day; that they spend more than three hours a day looking at their small screens; that in all they pull their phones out 1,500 times a week.
We all know this. Retailers and marketers know this, too.
“Consumers are going mobile and even if the advertising experience or the search experience on mobile isn’t optimized now, it will be in the future,” says Netta Kivilis, marketing head for Custora, a New York-based marketing analytics firm. “Brands cannot ignore mobile sites and the mobile Web for long, because this is where consumers are going.”
It’s one reason that so many in the mobile commerce field have been stepping up their mobile game for months or even years now. But it’s a tough business, mobile. There are apps and mobile websites; phones and tablets; iOS and Android.
And so there is anxiety.
Not a day goes by that those in the business aren’t reminded of how vital mobile is. ComScore comes out with a finding that mobile devices account for 60 percent of the time consumers spend interacting with digital retail content. InReality says that 75 percent of shoppers consult their mobile devices while in a physical store (the number is 90 percent for shoppers between 18 and 35). Indian e-commerce leader Flipkart announces that within a year it will shut down its website and rely completely on mobile. Enterprises like Facebook and Yahoo are all but betting their futures on mobile. Search engines, like Google, begin factoring in mobile friendliness when ranking mobile sites.
“This is long overdue, and shouldn’t people have been doing this for many years anyway?” Jess Stephens, chief marketing officer of UK-based SmartFocus, says of the increased attention on the mobile user experience.
“Mobile is so key globally,” adds Stephens, whose marketing software company works with digital commerce companies in Europe, the UK and the United States. “Certainly in the UK, Internet visits on mobile have overtaken desktop.”
It’s a general trend that reaches beyond the UK, Stephens says, and one that most of SmartFocus’ customers have recognized. In fact, early reports following Google’s recently increased emphasis on mobile friendliness indicate that mobile site operators understand that they need to provide an enjoyable mobile experience. A Search Engine Land story, for instance, reported that Google cited an increase of nearly 5 percent in mobile-friendly sites since it announced its latest mobile friendliness initiative.
And despite alarming stories predicting “mobilegeddon” leading up to Google’s new mobile-friendly emphasis, Stephens says SmartFocus’ customers haven’t seen any ill-effects of the change, presumably meaning those sites already were delivering a good mobile experience.
“In terms of apocalyptic events, if it’s mobilegeddon, it’s kind of more like the sort of creeping slow death of global warming than a comet crashing into the globe,” Stephens says.
But there is no question that the heightened focus on mobile experience is a good thing, Custora’s Kivilis says.
“It’s a great thing from our end,” Kivilis says. “We’ve been seeing a lot of brands that put a lot of emphasis and invested a lot of resources into mobile apps, but not necessarily making sure their websites are mobile optimized. It’s not an either or. If you’re investing in apps, you still have to invest in the mobile site as well.”
It is the burden of digital commerce in 2015. Despite Flipkart’s mobile-only move, very few can afford to focus on only one channel. Shopping and consuming content are all about all-channels and about providing an engaging experience across every one.
The notion is borne out by any number of recent studies charting consumers’ rapidly evolving shopping patterns. Marketing research firm eMarketer recently concluded that mobile is the new retail hub, explaining that while actual conversions on smartphones might make up a relatively small percentage of retail sales, the influence mobile devices have on sales is significant. For instance, eMarketer reports that 42 percent of those surveyed by xAd, Telmetrics and Nielsen said their mobile device was the most important information source in their purchasing process.
And comScore recently reported that well over half of consumers shop on PCs, smartphones and tablets, rather than favoring any one platform — and the number is growing, up from 52 percent to 57 percent in the five months ending in December 2013. All of which lends support to Deloitte Digital’s conclusion that by next year, as much as 21 percent of in-store sales will be influenced by mobile device use. In fact, Deloitte concluded, smartphone shoppers are 14 percent more likely to convert in-store than those who shop without using phones.
So the message is pretty clear: The apparent trend among digital enterprises of providing a better mobile experience is something that will be good for those enterprises and for the customers and users who depend on them.
Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.