Creating a Mobile Strategy for Your Customers
There's been a lot of hype about mobile so far this year. It seems that everyone's talking about it, but very few are doing it. And sadly, the majority of those who are doing it aren't doing a very good job.
Contrary to popular belief, mobile isn't all that tricky. In fact, for the most part, it's very simple as long as you have the right strategy for your business before going into it.
That's right. The No. 1 key to mobile is designing a strategy that works for your customers. With mobile, you essentially have four choices:
- enhance your regular site;
- build an optimized site;
- develop a mobile native application; or
- do one or more of the above.
How do you pick the one that's best for your business? Consider the following 10 factors:
1. What are your users currently doing with mobile? You can get this info from your stats. Then ask them. Surveys about mobile experiences are often very effective, especially if you can use Facebook and Twitter as drivers. Everyone has mobile traffic these days; how much traffic you're getting is what ranges.
Once you've figured your traffic out, look at what they're doing. Are they using your on-site text search? Signing up for your email program? Liking your page on Facebook? Attempting to purchase something? As a side note, this is the place where companies usually screw up. Some muckety-muck decides they need a full-fledged e-commerce site with a robust checkout and all the company's mobile resources get dumped into that. Six months later when they've received few orders from the specially designed mobile site someone does some research and finds out that consumers aren't in fact using the site for ordering but as a store-locator tool. Granted, that's an extreme example, but the point is that you need to know what your users are doing on your site now before you can change their ways of the future.
2. Look at what devices your customers are using. There's a big difference between a Droid, BlackBerry and iPhone. You need to know what your customers favor. This is a critical point that a lot of folks underestimate. More than one B-to-B company has spent a boatload on an iPhone app only to find out a couple months later that the majority of its customers have BlackBerries or vice versa.
3. Look at what networks your customers are on. Browsing on an iPhone using AT&T is nothing like browsing on a BlackBerry using T-Mobile. Is the network the end-all-be-all? No. However, it's important to note, especially if you're doing a lot of business internationally.
4. Find out what your customers are doing on their phones in general. Are they spontaneously going to your site, or are your email and text messages driving them? There's a big difference between a user who's been driven by your marketing vs. someone who ends up at your site on their own. This is especially true if you're getting a lot of traffic from social media. If your average user is coming from your Facebook page, for example, the last thing they'll want to do is find your app, download your app and then start using it.
5. What do your customers need or want to do on your mobile site/app? Do they want to do research? Compare prices? Read reviews? Watch videos? Customer service? Look up account and order status? Make a purchase? Find a store?
6. How many third-party applications are you using? Performance is a huge issue when it comes to mobile — much greater than a desktop experience. All of those handy add-ons you've made available on your site over the last few years (e.g., reviews, recommendations, analytics, A/B split testing, specialized shopping carts and platforms, affiliate programs, image builders, etc.) have an impact on the mobile experience.
7. How much Flash and Ajax are you currently using? Most smart/feature phones don't support Flash or Ajax applications well.
8. What are your competitors doing? What are other companies selling to your customers doing (even if it's a different product)?
9. How much functionality do you need? Right now, it's often easier to get a lot of whiz-bang technological showmanship from an app. Long term that won't be the case. You can also design an app that doesn't require an internet connection.
10. What's your time line? Mobile apps tend to take longer to develop than mobile sites (there are exceptions to this, but generally speaking). Plus, you need to get approval.
There are dozens of other questions, but the 10 listed above should point you in the right direction. By the way, when looking at your stats, look at several different metrics to get a good handle on what's working for you, including screen size, browser, network, referring URL, among other variables. Mobile stats just aren't all that great yet.