No doubt the world is mobile. Some internet gurus, most notably Google CEO Eric Schmidt, have gone as far as to suggest that the shift to mobile is bigger than the internet revolution itself.
It’s always wise to follow new internet trends. Dismissing them with a simple ‘that’s just for the bigger guys’, or’ it won’t last’, or ‘I don’t use it’, could mean missing out on a tremendous marketing opportunity. After all, it was only 15 years ago when the internet itself was declared a fad –- only to have it turn into one of the largest marketing initiatives of our time.
Today, mobile communications, is by far the fastest-growing industry. The statistics are astounding. According to a recent BBC article there are six billion mobile phone subscriptions world-wide. They are counting SIM cards and not devices – so if someone has two SIM cards in one device, it counts as two subscriptions. But that’s besides the point. Considering there are 7 billion souls on the planet — one can only say that the mobile market is BIG.
Besides the growth in the number of mobile devices, there are two significant developments that helped catapult mobile into a front runner. Mobile phones have become cheap – free with many plans. In terms of tablets there are numerous competitors that are driving prices down.
Secondly, using these new devices is a breeze. Browsing on the new touch-screen smartphones and computer tablets is a completely new experience that even novice users pick up quickly. Besides being easy to use, they are slim, easy to carry, come with a long battery life, are equipped with internet capabilities and lots of memory.
As expected in evolving new technology there are a few snags. Some mobile apps and websites only work well on select smartphones. The same is true with tablets. For example, some of the newer tablets are using Google’s Android system, which means that Microsoft Products aren’t compatible. And designing for a smaller screen does have its restrictions, say nothing of the fact, that there’s no clicking on a touch screen.
When designing for mobile devises, whether phone or tablet, there are a few things to keep in mind. People spend far less time on these new devices than they might spend on their computer. According to Nielsen Net Ratings, the average Internet session in 2007 lasted for 56 minutes, while the average mobile session is less than five minutes. Mobile users have a specific goal in mind – to get information – such as locating the best restaurant in a certain city, downloading a mobile app to find out when the next bus will arrive or to communicate with friends on social media.
This means that a mobile website should never be a strict duplication of a traditional website. The design must be well thought out for the user. There will be cases where traditional and mobile sites may share some content, such as contact information or classified listings, but testimonials and photos of last year’s haul-out might be left out of a mobile website. The information on a mobile website has to be presented in the right order for easy access. Remember, you’ve got five minutes to get the information across to the user.
While considering options for mobile, one step might be is to ensure that your current traditional website is mobile-optimized. There are some free tools available that can be installed on websites to make them mobile friendly – or to build a simple mobile micro-site. The tools actually install a code that detects the devise the site visitor is using, – i.e. a regular web browser or a mobile web browser. If the user is a mobile browser, they are redirected to the mobile version. The common practice is to assign the mobile version of your site with a sub-domain. This way the site traffic is forked into two segments, giving all of your site visitors an optimal browsing experience.
So of all the mobile websites, which is the one that intrigues me? Check Re/Max on your mobile device. Theoretically, one wouldn’t think that buyers would search for ‘big ticket’ items such as houses on their smartphone – most likely doing that kind of research on a regular computer. However, what the real estate industry surmised is that when driving around looking for a house, buyers would want to find the nearest open house, or next house for sale in that neighbourhood. If a buyer searches Re/Max on their smartphone, they are immediately directed to a user interface that says ‘Search millions of properties’. It’s a pretty safe assumption that a mobile user wants to bypass the traditional home page and go directly to the search functionality.
The real estate industry was also quick to adopt QR Codes (Quick Response Codes), another mobile functionality, in their marketing initiatives. Check a For Sale sign and you’ll see a QR code in the corner. A buyer equipped with a smartphone only has to photograph the QR code and then upload it to get the details of that particular house. Pretty interesting use of mobile technology.
What are my favourite mobile apps? Well admittedly, I’m a big Starbucks fan, and being able to locate the nearest Starbucks on my smartphone suits me just fine. You can download this app free from the website and it is nothing short of straight branding. Why roam the streets for the nearest coffee shop, when you locate one on your smartphone.
There is a lot more to the mobile discussion, particularly as it grows and new opportunities arise. But is a mobile application or a mobile website for every business?
How you embrace the new mobile technology depends on the goals and the nature of your business. It’s not about adapting your current business to a mobile technology. It’s more about extending your business opportunities. Your business might not be ready for mobile today, however, keeping abreast of the latest internet trends is always wise – so you don’t miss out or don’t get left behind.