The future has arrived, and it’s mobile

It’s a stark but simple fact that most millennials will never fully embrace the desk-top as we know it, for their natural loyalty is to a tablet or a smartphone. With this segment leading the charge, the surging popularity of mobile devices is forcing publishers and advertisers to review their marketing strategies and make mobile their number one priority. Simply reproducing your current web content for mobile channels is ineffective and will just leave these users feeling like second-class citizens.

According to eMarketer (Worldwide Mobile Phone Users: H1 2014 Forecast & Comparative Estimates), global mobile usage is expected to peak at 4.55 billion this year, of which 1.75 billion will be smartphone users. In a nutshell, that’s a notable 25% of the world’s population regularly accessing information on a mobile device. And if you are a news or entertainment media company your numbers are even higher, especially companies with a younger skewing audience who are beginning to reach the 50% tipping point where mobile traffic surpasses online desktop traffic.

Where to start?
In a mobile-first world, people are impatient and expect to immediately find what they are looking for. Time is something that a mobile-first world hates to waste – period. So, if you are a media company trying to get ahead and want to embrace this time-strapped audience, start off by trying to follow these two basic rules.

Rule #1: Be where people are looking for you

The three most common places where a mobile user is likely
to search for your content, especially your title by name, are:

  • Mobile Web Browser
  • Apple App Store
  • Google Play Store

One of the key tactics which can have a fast impact is to develop a responsive design, where the content layout is optimized to the user’s screen size. However, don’t stop at the mobile browser but proceed directly into the territory of building native apps for the Apple App and Google Play store. A responsive mobile web design is a great first line of defense for mobile users who happen upon your content via search or an email link, but it stunts a large source of traffic (i.e. your most loyal users) and blocks your ability to use mobile capabilities to grow traffic and make your brand a habit (aka push notifications and social media profile links).

Although it’s tempting to rationalize that building out a native app is too expensive or complicated, it’s also very costly to market and find new users. Can you really afford not to show up in an app store search? It’s highly likely that the ones searching the app store are your most loyal users who will drive up your traffic through multiple visits a month and become your best brand champions through one-click shares, commenting and signups.

Rule #2: Engage in under 3 clicks and less than 3 seconds

In a mobile-first world with so many cool features and new design gestures like flips, swipes and shakes to interact with content, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of developing a complicated user experience. Your primary focus should address the basics of the navigation and speed of your design. Studies show that the magic numbers of a user experience are 3 clicks and 3 seconds – make sure that your design fulfills those two fundamental yet functional requirements.

A first test to see if you have the beginnings of a mobile-first user experience is a simple visit to your website via a smartphone — how many clicks, swipes and scrolls does it take to get to the most popular section? What about the most popular function? If the number is less than three, you are off to a great mobile-first start. However, if the content shows up crowded or is hard to navigate, your content is not mobile friendly. For a continuous and strong brand recognition, ensure that the mobile version is consistent with corporate branding and ensures that a user’s experience is not diminished by using a smaller device. Each additional second and click are barriers in making your content a habitual part of your users daily lives.

Once you’ve made the commitment to mobile-first, your next step should be to source a partner who will enable you to control, manage and optimize your mobile content. Mobile is definitely here to stay, so stop talking and start doing.