Mobile First Commerce

Mobile commerce is thought to be growing 200% faster than eCommerce. Consumers are accessing the internet on handheld devices more than laptops or desktop PC’s. Mobile shopping is also on the rise and will likely become more popular as consumer confidence grows and as brands continue to adapt, develop and optimize websites and mobile apps with a mobile-first consumer-led mentality.

Furthermore, Google continues to discuss the arrival of the forthcoming switch to a mobile-first index whereby Google will rank websites based on their mobile offering when a mobile alternative is available over desktop websites.

Google tells us that those with responsive websites need not worry too much about the switch to mobile first, but having a responsive website does not necessarily mean the user experience on mobile for a site is automatically positive.  How many websites have you visited which are slow to load, have images which appear after the rest of the page has arrived, have forms which jerk around as you struggle to fill in your details, and from time-to-time simply won't allow you to fill in details in the first place?

Mobile first really means so much more than simply ticking the 'mobile-friendly test' box.  It's building websites and applications with the primary concern for the user experience of the mobile visitor throughout the whole user journey with your brand and each and every touchpoint (of which, hopefully there will be many).  Furthermore, Google's search engines will soon be based on mobile-first indexing (this means the listings of sites ranked will be based on mobile versions rather than desktop versions).  Google's search engine results currently are ranked based on the desktop versions of sites but with a small boost for being mobile-friendly.  This will change once the mobile-first index is fully built.

The burning question also has to be asked "how long will it be before the web is primarily mobile-first?, whether that be via websites or mobile apps."

Mobile can no longer be ignored by brands and small business owners.  The sooner you optimize your online business to meet the informational needs of mobile visitors the better.

Of course, switching to a mobile optimized website may come in phases.  After all, tech companies are still developing the technology to make the web more accessible for mobile.  If you're a large brand it's not easy to simply turn a large ship around.  Business As Usual priorities must be continued and the building of a new mobile-first offering will likely be a larger out of the ordinary project.  You might even have several websites or micro-sites to switch, which won't happen overnight.

If you already have a responsive website you're ahead of a lot of the pack.

Here are some of the key areas you should address immediately, or at the least as a high priority to stay ahead of the rolling mobile-first boulder.

Google's Mobile Friendly Test Tool

Google launched a mobile friendly testing tool.  In other words, can somebody using a portable device easily navigate your website!

As well as being able to navigate directly to the page on which the testing tool lives users can now test whether their web pages are mobile friendly directly in Google's search engine results pages, making it even quicker and easier to check whether your webpage passes the mobile friendly check by Google.

Mobile friendly testing tool

Don’t panic, the tool is easy to use. All you have to do is visit Google’s mobile friendly webpage (or search in Google for 'mobile friendly test' and the field to check will appear in search results) and type your url into the field provided. The following results will show underneath (this is just an example of a web page we tested for illustration) once you've run the test:

Mobile friendliness: ??/100

Mobile Speed: ??/100

Desktop speed: ??/100

The results will then be merited: good/fair/poor. Google will even send you a full breakdown of the report for you to hand to your web designer if you request one. Nice touch, we thought.

Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly

If the test comes back negative, you should seriously think about updating your site so it can be viewed on a small mobile phone screen; otherwise you will lose customers and profit.

Why your website should be mobile-friendly

Mobile shopping, or eCommerce at it is also known, is the fastest growing industry in the world ever. The wealth of statistics published across the internet clearly show a rise of between one and two per cent every quarter.

One of the most significant reports compiled by Nielsen shows the number of mobile shoppers in the UK increased by 48% between June 2013 and June 2014. And the custom is still in its infancy.

With all the indicators pointing towards a significant growth in the number of consumers using their mobile phones to surf the net and shop, it is essential for webmasters to have a website that can be viewed on a smaller screen.

Traditional websites made for laptops and desktop computers can only be viewed and navigated well on a large screen. On a 4-inches, the user can only see a portion of your website and have to use vertical and horizontal scroll bars to navigate the site.

Needless to say this is troublesome and users give up after a short while - if they try in the first place. According to data compiled by Mobify 61% of users leave.

When you consider 9 out of 10 mobile searches lead to action and 50 per cent result is sales (SearchEngineLand), can you afford not to make your website accessible to mobile users?

Responsive websites and why you need one

Responsive websites are must-have designs for online businesses. Why? Because more browsers are using mobile handsets to access the web and traditional web builds do not fit smaller screens.

As a result this makes user-experience a pain.

A website is typically designed to fit into a specific space. When you access a website on your laptop or desktop computer, the design fills the entire screen and you can see the entire page and its content clearly.

With the menu bars, side bars and content clearly visible it is easy to navigate the website using a scroll bar and menus to click-through to other pages. A well designed website is user-friendly – something search engines demand.

However, when this same website is accessed on a smaller screen such as a smartphone, the content, menu bars and sidebars are not clearly visible. The users has to use scroll bars along the bottom and up and down the side to navigate the site.

You have probably had this experience yourself. It’s awkward isn’t it? In essence, this type of web experience is not user-friendly, and it has become commonplace for visitors to immediately move away from websites they cannot easily navigate.

What is responsive web design?

Responsive web design enables websites to change size to fit into whatever sized screen the browsers is using to visit your site. If they have a 4-inch smartphone, the content will narrow in size and filter down for them to scroll through.

Likewise, if you are viewing a website on a laptop, but want to open another window to compare two websites side by side, you will notably see the form of the design change to fit the window. If you are not sure what I mean, try it now and see – downsize your window.

In short, responsive website are flexible and can be viewed and navigated regardless of the screen size visitors are using. A well-designed site will fit on a 4-inch screen and an 80-inch screen.

Obviously, smaller screen will hide content that is not necessarily relevant. Google has confirmed the web owners will not be culpable of trying to deliberately hide content if it is validated as part of a responsive design.  The main point is of course, not to attempt to manipulate.

The benefits of responsive web design

Now that more people are using their mobile phones to access the internet, responsive web design is crucial – and they offer a number of benefits over traditional designs, namely:

• Retain visitors
• Save time and money
• Improve lead generation

Retain visitors

Responsive web designs offer a much better user-experience for visitors using smaller screens. Because your site is easy to navigate, you increase the chances of visitors hanging around to explore your content.

When a website does not fit a smaller-sized screen, it is difficult for visitors to view content. Having to use dual navigation bars does not provide a good user experience and visitors click straight back out and go to another site – probably your competitors.

Save time and money

The initial solution web designers came up with to accommodate web browsers using handheld devices was to build a second website which was customisable for mobile.

The problem with this solution is you then have two websites to manage and maintain which is ultimately time consuming and costs you more in admin in the long-run.

A responsive web design on the other hand is just one site that adjusts to fit any screen. Maintenance is simple and less costly to build one site rather than two or three.

Improve lead generation

Copywriters have also been challenged to shorten the amount of sales content on a page in order to get the message across in the fewest amount of words.   There are many ways to say the same thing but in a more succinct manner.

Well written copy that provokes a reader’s interest also gives you an advantage with lead generation. Visitors are more likely to take action and get in contact to find out more if they are intrigued, rather than your sales copy explaining everything they need to know in the first instance.

Responsive web design not only ticks a number of boxes that give you an advantage over traditional websites, but is a long-term solution to the way people are accessing websites.

Mobile Subdomains versus Single Responsive Websites

The first industry solution to the mobile quandary was to create a subdomain specifically designed on a mobile template. This effectively meant building and maintaining a second site.  Oftentimes, the main desktop site becomes the focus for the brand and the mobile site can end up being left without development.  There is dilution of effort when maintaining two sites (a mobile and a desktop site).

Fortunately, web design has advanced quickly in a short space of time. Now we have responsive pages which shift-shape to fit the size of the display the viewer is using. You can use and navigate a responsive site on a 4-inch screen as easily as you can on a 22-inch monitor.

Not only do responsive websites increase your chances of making a sale, the positive user experience they offer increases the chances of customers returning. They also have advantages for SEO.

The surprising statistic is that an estimated 20% of websites on the internet are responsive. So use that to your advantage and upgrade to a responsive web design before your competitors do!

Creating a good user experience

One of the key factors of modern websites is the user-experience. A website should be clean, easy to read and easy to navigate. It should also load quickly. Internet users do not have the time or the patience to wait or take an eternity to find what they are looking for.

Create a good user experience on your website and not only will you increase your sales, but will have more returning customers. A study by Mobify reveals that 41% of users go to competitor sites if they have a bad mobile experience.

With the number of internet users adopting their mobile handsets as their primary device to search and shop, the need for a responsive website becomes all the more important.

Furthermore, an increase in mobile advertising campaigns and an influx of apps you can use to attract mobile shoppers present you with even more opportunities to grow your online business.

Why is mobile speed important?

There are some clinical statistics that indicate the importance of ensuring your website is mobile friendly:

  1. More searches are conducted using mobile phones that any other device.
  2. If a website does not load within 2-10 seconds, visitors will leave.
  3. If you ask digital marketers what the most important aspect of a website is, most will answer, “user-experience.”

So to sum up, if the majority of consumers are using mobile devices to visit your website, but it is slow to load or they cannot navigate your site easily, they will leave.

This means two things:

  1. You miss out on a sale
  2. Your rivals gain a customer. And they may stay loyal customers.
  3. Your prospective customer chooses not to click on your site when seeing it in search results next time they have a need due to the past poor experience whilst visiting before on their mobile or tablet device.

Search engines have been encouraging online business owners to improve the user-experience for mobile users for some time now. Web designers found a solution by creating responsive websites that shrink or expand to fit the screen of the device visitors are using.

But there are still plenty of issues that can affect the experience customers have when browsing your website. A good place to start is how users interact with your web design.

How to optimise your website for mobile devices?

Mobile devices have smaller screens than desktops, but you still need to cram in relevant information that makes it easy for visitors to navigate your site. And that means stripping away any irrelevant content.

The key rule is: keep it simple. Clean, uncluttered designs work the best so keep content to a minimum and package your site navigation up in tidy menus. Use multi-level menus and sub-menus that drop down to give users options when they click a category.

Also think about how visitors will use your website on a phone. Tapping and swiping are the principle actions so make sure that buttons are big enough to hit with a fingertip.

Search functions are essential if you have multiple pages, but you should include your main service and sub-services in the footer to make navigation easier.

The mobile revolution will not end any time soon and unless you respond it could affect your bottom line. Google has already made a statement with it's mobile-friendly update last year and it's recent announcements that further updates for mobile friendliness are on the horizon (along with the mobile-first index).  Many SEO's created FUD (fear, uncertainty and dread) by coining the mobile-friendly update “Mobilegeddon”.  Whilst this is very much an over-exaggeration of the effects that this update had (and the term was criticised by Google spokespeople), it is safe to say that the switch to mobile by consumers will have an increasing impact on the traffic to a website if the site is not mobile-friendly.  The number of consumers willing to use mobile devices to engage with business websites will get bigger as technology improves the quality of a mobile experience (e.g. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)).

In April, Google launched the so-called “mobilegeddon” which targeted websites that do not provide a good user-experience on mobile handsets. Some webmasters without mobile-friendly compliance lost search engine rankings and likely loss of traffic and conversions.

The purpose of the algorithm update was to dump websites that are not mobile-ready down the search engine rankings. Google is all about creating user-experience and websites that do not fit mobile screens do not fit the search giant’s concept of good UE.

If you are one of the unfortunates that got Google-slapped, here’s what you can do to recover.

Upwardly mobile

According to We Are Social 72% of the world’s population are using mobile phones and tablets to access the internet. Mobile shopping is the fastest growing industry ever.

It therefore makes complete sense for any online retailer to support a mobile-ready website.

The first thing you need is a responsive web design. This enables your website to be viewed on any screen, from a standard 4-inch mobile phone screen to an 80-inch Smart TV wide view.

The way content appears on different sized screens will obviously differ. This means you have to be more creative with the type of content you display. How will ads fit into your overall web design?

The solution is shape-shifting screens that filter content in and out so that smaller screens are not filled with content that makes it difficult to browse and large screens are void of content.

The payment process should also be straight-forward on mobiles and 3rd party advertising should be used sparingly or not at all.

When deciding on the layout and type of content you will feature on your website, think mobile first and work upwards. If your website does not provide a great mobile experience, Google will chop it down the rankings.

Ad network partnerships

Although the ideal solution for online companies is to have a clean website that is void of outside advertising, web owners that rely on ad partners to earn from their website have no option other than to feature on-site advertising.

As a result, websites have become user-unfriendly regardless of what screen users are connecting with. Intrusive pop-up ads and unsightly banners are the quickest way to deter visitors from browsing your site. It is just bad practice.

Therefore, find an advertising network that provides multiple ad formats and allows you to test them to ensure they are suitable for mobiles before you launch. If you go to the expense of setting up ad formats that chase people away from your site, there is no point having them anyway.

If native advertising is not practical for you, use mobile in-stream ad placements. You will generate much more revenue from these than right-rail ads.

You may need to do some experimenting to determine which ad formats work and which don’t, but much of this is instinctive based on your own user-experience.

Load speeds

Load times are important to users, therefore they should be important for you. Mobile users in particularly want instant results, they are on the move and do not have time to hang around waiting for your website to load up.

Whenever you load content on your website, you add more weight which can slow down the time it takes for your webpage to load. Video for example can be heavy, although there are ways of avoiding a lag.

CSS codes in HTML files can help. Also defer javascript posting at the end of the HTML document rather than at the beginning. If video is essential to your website, and given the nature of online advertising video is a vital cog, be careful not to feature video too often. Remove outdated videos.

Also compress or scale images that carry a lot of weight. Images are another feature websites cannot do without, but you should use them sensibly so that page speeds are not adversely affected.

Creative content

Content is driving web use at the moment, and given the high number of users accessing the web on mobiles, your content has to appeal to users with a handheld.

That means being more creative with your content so you get the message across in fewer words, images or whatever other content format you choose to use.

There is a focus on interactive content at the moment, so built-in apps are increasing in popularity with online advertisers. If you choose to go down this route however, create an everyday app that users will use more than once or twice.

There is no escaping the mobile revolution so online business owners have to either embrace it or ditch online marketing altogether. But with the amount of consumers relying on the internet to find out information and unearth the best deals, ignoring online advertising could cause more harm to businesses than good.

Mobile First User-experience

What do users want on mobile?

A recent survey conducted by HubShout revealed that 78 per cent of mobile users found new businesses on their phones and tablets.

The news gives small businesses with an online presence a confidence boost. With a solid SEO campaign and well designed website, it is possible for small businesses to compete with large corporations.

But the survey was also useful with providing insights as to what mobile customers expect from a website they visit.

Essentially, they want easy access to relevant information and to navigate the site in the least number of clicks and scrolls.

Relevant information

It is not just information that is important to mobile users, but how easily it is to find it on a website.

Search engine users typically use mobile devices to research information on product prices, opening hours, services, inspiration and event times.

Contact information and business hours were top of the list and should be predominantly displayed or located in a logical part of the website.

Other relevant information mobile users find the most important is:

• Business hours/show times
• phone number (preferably click to call)
• address with directions on foot, driving and public transport
• menu of products and services
• product images
• testimonials
• videos
• social media profile links
• fast load times

The priority for mobile users then, is to have immediate access to information that is most important to them, and a web design that is easy to navigate to secondary information.

The importance of information architecture on a website

Information architecture is the technical term used to describe the navigational layout of a website.

A whopping 93% of participants in the HubShout survey indicated they prefer web designs that enable them to navigate the site with few swipes of the finger and the least number of clicks.

The emphasis for mobile sites then is to include small amounts of text, drop down menus and a one click-to-call functionality.

Ill-fitting text on the other hand is a turn-off. If users cannot click in links or have to pinch, squeeze or zoom to read content, it impedes the user-experience.

The user-interface should avoid unnecessary content. Too much information to scroll through makes it more difficult to find relevant information and can leave visitors frustrated.

A poorly designed website that does not provide easy access to the most crucial customer information can lose small businesses customers. It is therefore in your best interests to design your website with mobile customers in mind.

Mobile speed matters - Fast is the only speed

Whilst the performance of your website has always been a priority this is even more so on mobile. People simply do not have the patience to wait for slow sites to load.  According to Double Click research, "53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than 3 seconds to load".  Improving on mobile speed latency have been found to have a real impact on bottom line revenues for publishers, according to the findings again of Doubleclick, with "mobile sites which load in 5 seconds earn up to 2x more mobile ad revenue" (Source: Google Data, Aggregated, anonymized Google Analytics and DoubleClick AdExchange data from a sample of mWeb sites opted into sharing benchmark data, n=4.5K, Global, June 2015 - May 2016).

One of the first ports of call when addressing speed issues on mobile is by undertaking a mobile SEO audit.  Speed is an essential item on any good audit list of tasks to carry out.  If you'd prefer to carry out an audit on your site yourself to check for speed you can always head over to the many website speed test tools.  These include Google Page Speed Insights, Pingdom Tools or GTMetrix.

Once you've run your website URL through these tools you'll be provided with a list of tasks to further undertake to improve the speed of your website.  These will include such items as compressing page content, compression of images, css (cascading style sheets) and js files (javascript).  There are a number of ways in which you can compress these files (images, css and javascript), and some useful tools out there to do the compression.  For image compression tools include Smush It, JPEG Mini, Kracken.io, Image Optimizer. Useful CSS compression / minification / optimization tools include CSS Compressor and CSS Minifier.  Javascript minification tools include Uglify JS.

A particularly big win flagged up frequently by page speed testing tools is in caching and header-control.  This relates to adding an 'expires-after' period of time to static content such as images and css files which rarely change, and which tell search engines and client browsers they can retain 'copies' to load for users for a set period of time.  Once the CSS or image has been downloaded once and stored throughout this period they don't have to load a new copy of the image or css file, often significantly reducing page load times.  Adding cache-control is usually carried out in the .htaccess file on a website and sends a clear message about how long a copy of an image or css file will be valid for before a new copy needs to be downloaded with the page.  The code to be added to the .htaccess file will take the following format:

Cache-control: max-age=<seconds> (add seconds here).

For example, a CSS file or Javascript file might be considered fresh for 6 months or even a year, dependent upon how frequently website development or design changes are undertaken.

One thing to bear in mind is you'll need to remember this cache-control is in place when you do make any changes to your website.  To see changes almost immediately you'll need to override the long expiry time on the content.  A good workaround to avoid having to re-edit the .htaccess expiry time is simply to add the following to the end of the .css file extension in the browser as such:

https://(yourdomain)/css?cache=1711101235 (this is a version number example).

Likewise with javascript files.  You'll then see the latest version of the CSS or javascript files (and hopefully your changes).

Fat fingers and thumbs first

Users interact differently with mobile devices when compared with desktop, and this changes very frequently too, with hand-held devices held differently often every few seconds.  When studying the handling of mobile phones by users recent research by UX Matters found the devices were held in the following way:

  • one handed—49%
  • cradled—36%
  • two handed—15%

UX Matters Research

Your website should be designed for these interactions and changes in device-holding.  You also need to design websites for ‘fat fingers’ so use big buttons that keep touch screen navigation simple.

One-click buy buttons and straightforward payment gateways are a must too.

Forms should have large entry fields rather than small fiddly fields.

One could also argue that a bottom menu as well as a top menu could provide an added benefit for those using thumbs to navigate a mobile site, contrary to the popular past top navigations on traditional desktop site.

Again, adding heat-mapping and UX software will give you a clearer picture of how users are interacting with your mobile offering versus your desktop version.

Think 'swipe', 'scroll' and frequent change.

Mobile First website architectures

Making a few tweaks to the information architecture of the website can make a huge difference to SEO rankings for most sites, but you might well also want to shorten click paths to the most important content for mobile users.

You can do this with menus and internal link optimisation .  Identify the top tasks your mobile users undertake via your site and ensure these are in the primary menu.  Don't forget to look at the possiblity of a bottom (near the thumbs) mobile menu too.  Undertake some research into how users are interacting on mobile devices with your site and plan accordingly based on your findings.

Nesting menus so that these key pages are easily accessed for mobile users will help a lot with UX and UX appears to be increasingly key to search engines as well as humans.  Search engines are after all attempting to understand and emulate the behaviour of humans when understanding your website.

Make scrolling, swiping and tapping a priority and tidy up the screen with menus, but be careful to ensure search engines as well as humans can still see and crawl key elements.

NB: The mobile first index will apparently mean Google will not penalise sites using concertinas and tabbled content to make UX better for people on mobile devices.  Currently tabs and concertina content on desktop is a big no-no as the content concealed within them is not included as relevant when the search engines index the page.

Avoid flash at all costs. It’s slow, difficult for search engines to crawl and index, and not all mobile phones are compatible with the software. HTML5 is a much better option.  Whilst javascript is becoming increasingly well understood and crawled by search engines there are still some gotchas with the javascript frameworks such as Angular JS and Node JS.  Where possible look to ensure there are static and crawlable links into content rather than simply hoping that search engines are able to crawl links in Javascript.  A number of studies have shown that in the main javascript frameworks are still not easily crawled.

Also scrap pop-up ads (interstitials) on mobile.  These are not only annoying, but they are also subject to algorithmic penalties from Google, although these are still strictly speaking, allowed on desktop devices.  Even so, you need to consider the user experience, regardless of whether this is penalizable or not.  Maybe look at user testing and installation of heat-mapping software such as that provided by Hot Jar which will allow you to record the click behaviour of visitors and identify how pop-ups or other content on your site is interacted with overall.

You should also consider that they are frustrating even on laptops and desktops even though they are not penalised.

Optimise content for mobile readers

Small screens make it more difficult to engage with content.  Furthermore, people skim read and with the scrolling action tend to browse content rather than actually immerse themselves in it.  As a consequence, online publishers have to make content pop out and catch the eye.  Not literally of course.  But something as simple as highlighting a sentence in bold, adding h-tags or using the quote tool in your CMS dashboard draws the attention of important points to readers.

Don’t forget local search

Brick and mortar stores rely on local customers and statistics show that around 50% of consumers that perform a local search on their mobile phone visit a store within 24-hours.

In a mobile world, a local SEO strategy is a must.  Furthermore, search engines promote local businesses in relevant searches, so make sure your website is optimised for local search and mentions NAPs (name, address, geographical telephone number) .

Mobiles and Video content

Mobile users watch more videos that any other type of content.  When on the move or in a public space, people don’t have the time or the concentration to read.  They much rather prefer to indulge themselves in visuals.  Video ads can be pretty expensive to make professionally.  But DIY video content does not have to burst your budget.  You probably have a video camera on your mobile phone you can use to shoot 720 or 1080p footage with.  Otherwise invest in a cheap video recorder.  You can also find free or low-cost video editing tools online.  Remember, you don’t have to make promotional ads to justify publishing videos that promote your business anyway.  Demonstrate your products or give tutorials, advice or presentations via YouTube and Vimeo.  Providing the video is watchable and interesting, you have the potential to build a mobile audience.

Voice search

The future of searching the internet for content is voice search.  Products such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home are already demanding consumer attention, and as people grow more accustomed to giving oral instructions, it will become the norm.  People are already using voice assistants on mobile devices to type messages and make calls.  It’s a far easier method than trying to type on a miniature keypad. It won’t be long before voice prompts becomes the customary method for navigating search engines.

In order for your online business to show up in oral search results, your content has to feature phrases and sayings people are likely to speak into their phones. This may require adding more longtail keywords to your page content.

Social share buttons

Mobile users are twice as likely to share content than when they are using desktop devices.  Install a plugin that makes it easy for mobile users to share your content on their social networks.  There are plenty of plugins for this; social warfare,  Sumo share and social share will all do the job. And don’t worry if you’re not so tech minded, plugins are really easy to install.

Mobile Web Versus Mobile Apps

Which Suits Your Business Better

Now consumers are using mobile handsets to do everything and more than they can on a desktop internet, online businesses have a decision to make.  Will your business perform better online with an app, a website or both?

Search engines have steered firms to build websites consumers can use on mobile phones. Yet there are still a lot of mobile users that are having usability problems.

Slow loading sites, poor performance, poorly designed, intrusive display ads and impossible navigation all contribute to the frustrations of mobile internet users.  Then along came the app. And with a swagger. It boasts the ability to work offline, can be customised for personalised use and generally performs better than a website.  It should be noted that there are also now Progressive Web Apps (PWA's) which are an extension of a website which has the look and feel of a site but can be used offline and are potential competitors to the mobile apps out there.

But overall are web apps or web mobiles better for your business?

App Usability Versus Mobile Web Usability

Apps offer users and businesses a number of critical advantages; the performance is better on mobile devices and help brands improve personalised service and customer loyalty.

Apps certainly tick the right boxes in terms of usability, but only if they add value to the customers for the long-term. Statistics show that apps typically have a short life span.

If your mobile website is poorly designed, it can create all kinds of usability problems. However, these can be easily eradicated with a simple design that is clutter-free and easy to navigate.

Since the introduction of HTTP2, websites can load quicker on mobile phones, and if designed well, should improve the user-experience. But web designers still need to be savvy.

The more information web browsers have to communicate with servers, the longer it takes mobile pages to fully appear on the screen. And consumers do not have time to wait!
Therefore mobile websites should have a minimalist design that does not need a lot of data to be processed. If your website is too heavy, Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) will strip away design features and leave your website looking threadbare and unprofessional.

AMP is Google’s response to Facebook’s Instant Articles which gives users access to a wide range of content without having to leave the app. Essentially, AMP is designed for the purpose of reading content, and not interacting with the brand. App content has an advantage over webpages.

Searchability

Whether you have a websites, an app, or both, you have to rely on search engines to throw it in search results. And there is a lot of competition for both website urls and apps.

Apps are available from app store such as Apple, Google Play and Microsoft Windows. They have also started appearing in organic search engine results. Sales are driven by word-of-mouth or immediate need for a specific feature.

Consumers cannot easily find apps without relevant keywords, user interaction and customer testimonies. Search engines in App Stores function in the same way as Google, Bing and Yahoo!

There is an argument that small businesses would benefit from an app over a website because there is less competition in app stores thus more chance of increased visibility. Furthermore, apps can be accessed and used offline.

However, because of the programming involved, they take longer to develop and are more expensive to adapt whenever new technologies and customer behaviour changes.

Websites on the other hand typically have an extended life cycle over apps. You can also improve visibility through paid advertising campaigns and social media platforms.

Websites also reach a wider audience and have more accessibility than apps. They can be accessed through a web browser on any device, whereas apps are device specific.

Apps v websites in mobile - pros and cons

The advantage of a website is they are less expensive to build and easier to develop. You will also reach a wider audience. Users can also access website from anywhere with an internet connection.

In contrast, apps perform better on mobile phones and increase customer loyalty – providing they provide uses your customers want on a regular basis. They have clear advantages over websites but are more expensive to build.

If you have to choose between a mobile app and a responsive website, consider which platform offers users the most value on mobile phones and establish what your end goal is for your investment.

If you do decide to go for a mobile app over a website then you'll need to think about optimising for that.

Mobile App Optimisation

Mobile apps are not the solution for every business, but if you can provide a useful service or information users will access on a regular basis, apps are a great way to promote your business and nurture customer loyalty.  First and foremost, mobile apps offer customers convenience.  They can access your online store instantly without waiting for web browsers and receive notifications every time you publish a piece of content on your blog.  Mobile apps are essentially a miniature version of your website so should follow the same protocols; user-friendly, eye-catching, engaging, quality content.

If you follow the standard that everything in the digital sphere should be user-focused,  inspiration for a mobile app will start seeping into your consciousness. And once you build the bigger picture, you will start to recognise the value potential in a mobile app.

Don’t neglect app stores

If you do decide that making a mobile app is a progressive step forward into the world of mobile, don’t forget to promote your marketing tool in app stores and use optimisation tactics so that your app is visible.  App Annie and Search Man are examples of app optimisation tools you can also use to make the best of optimising for your mobile app.

App optimisation is not too dissimilar than optimising your website for search engines.  So if you are already familiar with the concept or the technical processes of SEO, optimisation a mobile app is a simple step.

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Consider AMP as an alternative solution for speed and mobile consumption

The AMP (Accelerate Mobile Pages) Cache is a store of mobile-friendly versions of web pages stored separately across a number of data-centres by Google.  Because 'normal' web pages are called from the server of the hosting company of websites, the travel time (sometimes server requests have to cross oceans to reach the client side (your desktop or mobile device)) can cause significant latency.  AMP caches serve the resource from the data centre closest to the user when fetching the page.  AMP is fast, but it's not without its critics and requires different markup called AMP html.  There are far more restrictions with AMP markup.  Google has given a carrot to brands (or maybe it's a stick?) in that only valid AMP pages can appear in the top news carousel in Google search results.  If your page does not have an AMP version then it has no chance of appearing in news at the top of mobile devices (within the carousel).  Given the news carousel also includes soft news such as travel guides it is not just news publishers who are impacted.   One of the most common objections to AMP is the argument that it uses Google proprietary code and a ploy by Google to force websites to develop for Google's browser first and foremost, and it's certainly true that most of the team developing AMP are Google's own employees.

In AMP's favour it is lightening fast, but some argue it's primarily because AMP pages have very little code.  They argue any other webpage as light on code would be equally fast and brands should simply focus on performance optimisation on their already existing pages instead of adopting AMP in the first place.

AMP still has some restrictions.  For ecommerce sites in particular the transition through the checkout and payment process is not yet compatible with AMP), although some large sites (for example EBay) have implemented AMP on ecommerce product and category pages and switch back to non-AMP when it comes to the buying process.

The jury is still out on AMP, but certainly Google and the other collaborators (major online publishers, CRM companies, analytics companies and more - some 36 major collaborators in total) continue to push forward with it and it doesn't appear to be going in the same direction as many of Google's failed attempts at 'new things'.  If anything Google may be winning the battle of changing the hearts and minds of the wider online community toward AMP as a number of case studies have been published which show success and improved conversions as a result of implementation.

Regardless of whether you implement AMP or decide to work on performance optimisation on your own site AMP free, fast is the only speed.

Mobile First and Millennials

Millennials are consumers born into the technological age and have grown up around handheld devices, desktop PC, laptops and the internet. They are comfortable using all types of devices and are typically active on social media.

By 2025, 75% of millennials will account for 75% of the global workforce – and they will have more money to spend than they do now. Merchants are already beginning to see a significant shift in millennial shopping preferences – both in-store and online!

The younger generation of shoppers prefer to pay using NFC (near-field communication) technology directly from their handheld device than a credit card. Subsequently, mobile apps are being actively used in-store.

A survey conducted by getelastic shows that 66% of millennials using mobiles for shopping are spending more than shoppers visiting physical stores. This is because marketers with a solid digital strategy can capitalise on visual showrooms that are noticeably seen by customers. In a store, offers can go unnoticed.

Mobile millennial consumer demands

Because they are technology savvy, millennials have high expectations of digital companies. They demand seamless transactions and a happy user experience whether they are online or in brick and mortar stores.  Don’t let the digital arena + millennial shopping preference statistics sway your marketing options. Like every other generation of shopper, the 14-35 group of shoppers still enjoy visiting physical stores.

The trend of shoppers these days is to visit stores to examine merchandise then check out reviews online before they purchase. Buying online is a convenience most of the time, not a necessity.  But millennials do expect seamless transactions across all touchpoints – which means installing means of buying and reviewing items in-store is going to become very important for retailers. Scannable barcodes and coupons on mobiles are already proving to be deal-breakers.

Customer loyalty and courting

Just because millennials are active on social media networks, it does not necessarily mean they are interested in engaging with brands. A survey by Accenture revealed shoppers only interact with brands when they receive offers they are interested in through social media channels.  The key word here is “interest.” The offers they receive directly must be relevant to them. When they are made to feel valued, millennials are loyal customers because they appreciate good service. Quality and cost are a priority of course, but so too is the overall shopping experience.

When treated right, modern shoppers are interested in loyalty programs that provide discounts and the younger generation do not mind being directly targeted by brands via email or text message providing the promotion is relevant to their interest.  What they will not stand for is misplaced ads or a bombardment of ads every other day. They want to be made to feel special so only send them personalised special offers or real-time information on new or discounted products.

The sooner online businesses bring their digital store and physical store in-line with modern day consumers the better. Marketers need to understand mobile shoppers and in-store retailers should install NFC systems that provide convenience, speed and vital information.

Mobile is the driver

There can be little doubt that mobile is the driver of modern day marketing. It is the fasting growing trend ever and with over 2bn users projected for 2015, the phenomena shows no sign of slowing.

The range of statistics involving the growth of mobile marketing are too great to ignore. The most recent report, a projection of global ad spend in 2015 issued by ZenithOptimedia, predicts a further 15% growth over the next two years.

If you’re not already targeting smartphone users, you are probably missing out on the chance to attract customers.

As we move into a world of All Things Internet, online advertising accounts for 24% of global spend. With smartphone technology, apps and social media networks at the disposal of marketers, mobile marketing has the potential to be the dominant platform for advertisers.

How to capitalise on mobile marketing

Mobile marketing needs a little more savvy than traditional desktop marketing. First of all, you need to think about the type of device your audience will be using. That means creating an advertising campaign for a 4-inch screen.

Advertisers have been slow to move into the mobile marketing arena, but this year saw a flurry of campaigns specifically designed to have an impact on a handheld audience demonstrated how far the technology has matured over the last couple of years.

Some of the tactics used improved interactivity, enhanced targeted audiences and took advantage of native experiences. Social media networks still lead the way in terms of reaching your audience, but marketers should be considering how to make the most of mobile technology.

Mobile wallets

NFC technology may be raw, but the potential for consumers to make secure payments using their mobile phones is used. With the rise of data security hackers breaching retailer accounts, apps like Apple Pay that enable users to make secure payments won’t take long to catch on.

Some top-name brands are already taking advantage of mobile wallets. Both Starbucks and Burger King have promoted bar codes to geo-targeted audiences. The tokens allow users to buy a coffee and a bite to eat by swiping their mobile screen with a barcode reader. This is the future of retail shopping.

Geo-targeting

Targeting mobile users in your locality with real-time ads is potentially the greatest weapon in your arsenal. Info share sites such as Facebook and FourSquare allow you to identify customers on your radar and send them a promotional offer.

Traditional advertising relied on a customer coming into your store to browse around before you could actively engage with them. Geo-targeting enables you to extend further afield and invite prospects in the vicinity in to your store using message alerts that offer special gifts, discounts or early access.

Interactive features

Internet services have made it easier for brands to interact with consumers before, during and after the buying process. Savvy marketers catering to handheld devices can take advantage of this functionality to attract new customers and improve customer service.

Nissan recently pitched a mobile ad featuring hotspots that viewers were able to tap and access additional information. The ad totalled a 93% engagement rate and helped to raise product awareness.

Now that smartphone technology is becoming more advanced, marketers have more options to reach a wider audience than ever before. And given we are still in the infancy of developments, the potential for marketers to improve advertising campaigns and increase numbers across the board is very exciting.

Mobile marketing is a revolution. If you don’t get on the train soon, you will get left behind by your competitors.

Wearable Tech

Online shopping and advances in mobile technology is making our lives more convenient. Now wearable tech products are hitting the High Streets, how is this going to impact on your marketing strategies?

Apple Watch and Google Glass are leading the pack of wearable tech options and users are already enjoying the benefits of not having to take their mobile handsets out.

But as screen landscapes become smaller, so does your marketing campaign. It’s like Twitter on spectacles. Messages need to short and tweet! Sorry.

Glanceable marketing

Online users are already accustomed to scanning, glancing and digging out information easily. Wearable tech is purely designed around convenience. This means your marketing messages have to be precisely relevant and straight to the point.

The rise of mobile technology has its pro and cons just like any other innovative product. It also presents more challenges than obvious solutions for marketers, but that is understandable given we are still in the infant stages of development.

Essentially, new software is required to help marketers successfully send marketing messages to smaller platforms. Companies like wearably have made headway, but given manufacturers are still trying to perfect the technology so that it is marketable, software is naturally lagging behind.

The wearable tech revolution?

We have to assume however, that wearable tech will take off. Google is already working with top designers to make the tech-specs more appealing to the eye, and once developers work out more uses for the product, it is only a matter of time before the eyewear is less creepy than it currently is.

The Apple and Samsung watches are likely to become more and more popular in years to come – and this is when marketers need to be ready to approach customers via their watch rather than their mobile.

So what are your options?

NFC wearables

Near-field communications (NFC) devices will inevitably play a major role in the revolution. Consumers are already feeling the benefits of buying products with barcoded coupons straight off their mobile phones.

Manufacturers are in the process of developing NFC jewellery such a rings and necklaces. Mobile users won’t even have to take their phones out of their pockets to buy merchandise!

Experts are also talking up the ability for wearable tech to monitor the emotional state of consumers during the purchasing and marketing process. This will inevitably be useful for marketers, but how will consumers react?

That idea may not even get off the ground!

However, wearable tech in clothing is likely to appeal to consumers if they can get readings on their health and well-being.

Whether they are prepared to share this information with retailers when buying paint for example, is another matter, but if marketers can provide a significant emotional value to their customers there may be potentials.

Shopping experience

Retailers understand the shopping experience is as important to customers as the quality of the product and the service provided. And wearable tech could offer huge potential for some companies.

For example, coffee shops could tap into information about blood sugar and caffeine levels of their customers and recommend a certain drink. Perhaps the customer will benefit from a fruit juice and a chocolate brownie than an espresso.

Businesses that can offer a service at the exact time when a customer needs it, is highly beneficial. And people like having easy decisions to make. If you can tell them what they need because that is what their body and emotional state recommends, how could they refuse?

When dealing with privacy and personal data, companies have to be very careful, so wearable tech will not benefit every company. But there are many other every day businesses that can offer valuable advice to their customers and wearable tech has the potential to offer multiple solutions.

An increasing number of consumers are using mobile handsets for shopping. Google stats show 67% of online consumers are using a mobile device for at least one stage of the purchasing process.

Furthermore, the search engine giant announced it would be including mobile-friendly sites as a ranking factor. If you do not have a responsive website that can be easily viewed and navigated in a mobile screen by 21st April 2015, expect to drop down Google rankings.

By now you are probably well aware of the mobile mania sweeping across search engine land. Now all you need to know is how optimise your website for mobile shoppers.

First thing to remember is that search engines are online consumers want a good UX – user experience. You can give them this by making your website easy to navigate on a mobile device and making the purchasing process quick and easy.

Mobile usability

Mobile screens do not have as much landscape to view as desktop PC’s and laptops – therefore the amount of info is limited. But you still have to get your message across…

…so we are talking about the wonderful artistic concept of less is more. Well kind of. The real purpose here is getting straight to the point rather than going round the houses to explain your point.

If visitors want further information they should be given the option to find a detailed description on a separate page. Therefore, your content must have a place of its own and be clearly labelled.

Add a feature that allows users to bookmark pages. If you have an eCommerce site give users the option to add products to a wish list or shopping cart. Make it easy for consumers to make decisions.

The rule of thumb for mobile-friendly designs is to think about how users will navigate your site on a 4-inch screen first, and scale up from there.

Think conversions

Is it impossible to pre-determine why a visitor is browsing round your online store – it depends what stage of the purchasing process they are at. However, keep things simple and gear your mobile site towards conversions.

Images are a great way to attract attention and get the most click-throughs. On your landing pages, images should be accompanied with brief copy stating exactly what you are offering – so advertise tempting offers on your landing pages.

Another effective tool you can add to your arsenal is a virtual assistant that enables you to connect with visitors in real-time.

This presents you with a great opportunity to offer help and advice, just like you would a customer visiting your physical store.

Geotarget prospects

Modern mobile handsets are fitted with location sensors that allow you to detect when prospects are in your neighbourhood. Providing you have the authorisation and contact details of customers to send promotions, geotargeting is a great way to surprise prospects with great offers.

However, you should be extremely careful how you play the geotargeting card. Don’t be a pest and bombard customers with messages every day. They are probably just passing to go to work.

You also have to be extra careful to send promotions that are relevant to the recipient. Studies have shown that over 70% of consumers will unsubscribe after three misplaced ads.

Promotional ads should also have a personal touch that makes the customer feel special rather than a random bulk message that could be aimed at anyone. That doesn’t mean you have to write individual messages to each of your prospects, but use consumer data wisely to determine what type of products or service they will be interested in.

Easy subscriptions

Mobile users do not mind subscribing to brands they know and trust, but they do not want to have to fill in a lengthy questionnaire just to browse through your online catalogue.

Therefore make subscription quick and easy by getting them to sign in using social media details. You will have seen this tactic employed by numerous online companies and appreciate its benefits so is a no-brainer, but still worthy of a mention.

You could go one step further and offer an app as part of a loyalty program whereby you can send direct newsfeeds to users, whether they are special offers for them or not – you never know, something may take their fancy without them having thought of it before.

Payment details should also be easy to set up and secure. Offer Paypal as well as popular credit cards and give customers the option to save their payment details to the account so the next time they purchase something online, they can proceed to check-out with little ado.

So, to optimise your site for mobile users, the take-home advice is to keep decision making and actions simple and make your products appealing without having to explain a great deal.

Writing Website Content For Mobile Readers

Getting content in front of readers is challenging. The majority of content these days is filtered through newsfeeds and social media networks. And that means that a large percentage of readers are using mobile phones.  Research conducted at the University of Alberta indicated that writing content for smaller screens is a whole new ball game. Your page has to be clean, easily digested and only focus on the essential content.

Low level writing

Tests showed that reading complicated content on a smaller screen is twice as difficult as when reading from a larger surface.  A smaller screen size reduces the amount of content viewable. This does not enable readers to glance back at previous information as a quick reminder of what they had previously read.

When reading it is easy to drift of slightly and not remember what you have just read, especially with so many distraction in public places when most people are using their mobiles to catch up on feeds.  Writers therefore need to basic language that is clear and concise. Short, sharp sentences are better digested and easily remembered. You should also include a quick round up of each point in one sentence.

Keep your writing tight

The ability to write bite-sized sentences is cutting words you don’t need. Read a sentence back to yourself and ask if there are any words you can remove without losing its meaning.  For example, I want to explain to you that overwriting a sentence uses up valuable space and time mobile users do not have.  You could rewrite the sentence removing unnecessary words, such as “to you” above. I want to explain that overwriting a sentence uses up valuable space and time mobile users don’t have.

But there is an even better approach. Rather than explain your reasons, just get to the point: “Overwriting a sentence uses up valuable space and time.”

Formatting

Formatting your article involves keeping the page tidy and easy-on-the eye. You can do this by writing short paragraphs and using bullet points.  Paragraphs should be short - two or three lines (in Word .doc) so that when is it down-sized on a smaller screen it does not appear like a great chunk of text. This puts people off reading.  You should also space your article out with subheadings. This makes information easier to re-find should the reader wish to go back and read over a section again.

Length

The length of content should also be considered, but this depends who your target audience is. You may have professional readers that are happy to read 2000-word essays on a mobile screen.  But if you are a B2C company, short, informative articles are better for readers to check in and have something to take away with them for the day.

You may not have to change the type of content you post in order to accommodate mobile readers, but you do have to consider how you can provide a friendly user-experience for readers with small screens.

Bing v Google in Mobile

Research shows that Bing impressions on mobile handsets is clawing back some of the market share from Google. Whilst the Big G still dominates search, there is a clear indication rival search engines are starting to attract users.

The number of purchases made on mobile handsets is now twice that made on desktop PC’s. And search engines are tapping into the increasing number of mobile users.

Over the past year, Google has been catering to every conceivable whim of mobile users. And Bing is following in its virtual footsteps.

Last week, Google launched the latest weapon in its arsenal – a buy button that streamlines the purchasing process for goods on sale through paid advertising.

But Bing is hitting back with its own line-up of services that appeal more to retailers than consumers. And that is why Bing impressions have warranted a 98% increase on tablet sales and 30% through mobile phones.

Bing Bing

From a retailer’s point of view, Paid ads on Bing have less competition than Google. The benefit for retailers is you receive better ad positions for less cost per click.

Although Google drives more customers to retailers due to their dominance in market share, statistics show search engines users are looking for alternatives to Google.

The latest figures show that Bing is improving its search capacity and its share of the search market ticked over to 20% earlier this year. In the last two years they have pulled back four per cent on the Big G.

If Bing continues to lure mobile users away from the grasp of Google, the impact could be a boon for PPC campaigners on Bing.

Mobile times

Bing however, is always one step behind Google. In May, the Big G rolled out its so-called “Mobilegeddon” which penalises websites that are not responsive. Bing owners, Microsoft has also announced “Mobile-friendly” changes.

The difference between the two companies is that Bing does not penalise web owners for not having a responsive web design. Whilst Google down-ranks non-responsive sites, they retain rank in search listings on Bing.

Bing also makes it easier for users to browse through image searches by using Bubbles which give searchers alternative options.

The feature helps searchers when keywords have been mistyped, either a misspelling, or because they are not entirely sure of the exact word. Tapping the bubble buttons broadens the search of any one keyword.

For end-users conducting research, this is a neat feature to help them refine their search and dig deeper into results to find what they are looking for.

Instant purchase

Bing may make it easier for researchers to dig deeper, but Google is making it easier for mobile shoppers to make purchases.

The recently launched “Purchasing on Google” stores bank details so that when consumers make a purchase on their mobile handsets, they do not have to key in bank details every time they use a different online store.

Google has noted the increase in searches on mobile phones is significantly higher than the number of purchases made using handsets. Shoppers still prefer to visit physical stores, or alternatively use a desktop PC.

The “buy button” however, makes the purchasing process on mobile phones simpler. Consumers only need to input their card details once and every purchase after that requires a few taps.

Bing is yet to announce a similar feature, but we can guarantee a similar feature will not be long in coming.

And whilst Google may be leading the charge to improve user-experience for mobile, Bing creates a slightly better package that suits both retailers and consumers.

Google on the other hand panders to consumers at the expense of small to medium-sized businesses.