A com­mon ques­tion that I am hear­ing from mar­keters is this: “If I have a lim­ited bud­get, which is more impor­tant to my mar­ket­ing efforts: the mobile-opti­mized site or the mobile app?” Dur­ing a pre­vi­ous Adobe Sum­mit, I had the oppor­tu­nity to ask this ques­tion to some key indus­try lead­ers. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Mobile Site Approach: “Amer­i­can Eagle Out­fit­ters focused on devel­op­ing the mobile site first because you can reach every­one via a mobile site ver­sus an app that requires down­load. Even­tu­ally, after fully think­ing through the busi­ness ratio­nale, we built an app focused on loy­alty mem­bers and included some cool shop­ping fea­tures to sup­port these cus­tomers.”  — Eric Schmitt (Amer­i­can Eagle Outfitters)
  • Hybrid Approach: “Mobile web and mobile apps will co-exist for now. Clients build­ing apps want to tap into device spe­cific fea­tures, enable off-line sup­port, or pre­mium user expe­ri­ence.” — Julie Ask (For­rester Research)

Con­fused? Wel­come to the con­ver­sa­tion. I believe that the more impor­tant ques­tion is this: What mobile strat­egy is best and most appro­pri­ate for your orga­ni­za­tion today? This blog series will cover some of the lat­est indus­try research, empow­er­ing you to decide for your­self: mobile web­site, mobile app, or hybrid?

Today we will focus on what I believe to be the foun­da­tion and first step to a solid mobile strat­egy: build­ing the mobile web­site or opti­miz­ing your site for mobile devices such as smart­phones and tablets.

Mobile Apps and Mobile Web­sites Have Plenty of Room for Improvement

I want to begin this con­ver­sa­tion by say­ing that, over­all, there’s plenty of room for improve­ment in both mobile app and mobile web­site devel­op­ment. Accord­ing to the Adobe 2013 Mobile Con­sumer Sur­vey, “On aver­age, peo­ple appear to rate their expe­ri­ences on apps and web­sites equally. A 60% aver­age sat­is­fac­tion rate for both web­sites and apps indi­cates a clear oppor­tu­nity to improve expe­ri­ences for all mobile audiences.”

Mobile audi­ences con­tinue to be, for the most part, neu­tral or only par­tially sat­is­fied with their mobile expe­ri­ences. Why? Well, con­sumers con­tinue to be more advanced than the major­ity of orga­ni­za­tions in terms of mobile usage for every­day life. Few orga­ni­za­tions are ahead of the mobile tech­nol­ogy adop­tion curve. When the pupils out­pace the teacher, what typ­i­cally hap­pens? Stu­dents become bored, frus­trated, or dis­en­gaged. In order to main­tain the edge, orga­ni­za­tions must study and learn from their con­sumers: What are their mobile con­sump­tion behav­iors and how can orga­ni­za­tions get out ahead of them in order to acquire new cus­tomers, drive sales, and more?

Paul Berney, CMO and man­ag­ing direc­tor of the Mobile Mar­ket­ing Asso­ci­a­tion, remarks in the People’s Web Report, “We are no longer divided into a world of dig­i­tal natives and immi­grants … increas­ingly, the world is dom­i­nated by dig­i­tal depen­dents.” For most of us, our smart­phones have become more per­ma­nent than our fin­ger­nails. They’re con­stantly in our hands, pock­ets, and purses. How can orga­ni­za­tions lever­age this new dig­i­tal depen­dency? First, get to know the sen­ti­ments and behav­iors of your cus­tomers. Do you know how cus­tomers use their mobile devices?

Shop­pers Pre­fer Mobile Websites

What do shop­pers pre­fer? Apps or web­sites? In the Adobe con­sumer sur­vey, an over­whelm­ing 58 per­cent pre­ferred mobile-optimized or reg­u­lar web­sites over apps, “indi­cat­ing that con­sumers might not be will­ing to down­load, install, and con­tin­u­ally upgrade appli­ca­tions.” (More on the pros and cons of apps in part two of this series.)

How­ever, it’s impor­tant to hone in on the ver­biage used here: “mobile-optimized web­sites.” This means that your web­site is highly func­tional and won­der­fully user-friendly on their mobile devices. Recent stud­ies affirm the fact that “44% of con­sumers will not return to a web­site that is not mobile friendly” and “76% of peo­ple won’t even bother try­ing to use a non-optimized site, or will turn to a com­peti­tor instead.”

Addi­tion­ally, when per­form­ing a basic search or dig­ging for infor­ma­tion, the major­ity of peo­ple pre­fer mobile web­sites over apps. For­rester Research calls this abil­ity to do quick searches dur­ing short spurts of time through­out the day Web snack­ing. Mobile Web snack­ers pre­fer to get their snacks through the mobile Web.

Build­ing for Mobile? | Start Here

Sim­i­lar to what is pro­posed by Forrester’s Julie Ask in “Mobile Matu­rity Equates to Mobile Com­pe­tency,” I rec­om­mend begin­ning with the mobile Web and set­ting aside apps for later. “The mobile Web offers a broad-reach, rel­a­tively low-cost play that helps many eBusi­ness pro­fes­sion­als get started with mobile services.”

Step 1 | Use Ana­lyt­ics to Make Discoveries

How are your cus­tomers using their mobile devices? How can you improve their expe­ri­ence inter­act­ing with your orga­ni­za­tion? How will you find out this infor­ma­tion? If you’re not already using ana­lyt­ics tools to man­age your Big Data, let’s take a quick step back and ask, “Why not?” The mobile world will only accel­er­ate its pace. Data will con­tinue to pile up. It’s imper­a­tive that you uti­lize a tool that pro­vides the nec­es­sary ana­lyt­ics as you move for­ward with mobile web­site devel­op­ment in an intel­li­gent and informed man­ner. You don’t want to just guess and “go with your gut” about your customer’s behav­iors and pat­terns.  Lead­ing orga­ni­za­tions rely on hard data in order to assess real­ity. This will enable you to build a mobile web­site that meets cus­tomers’ needs and expectations.

Step 2 | Set Up a Mobile Cen­ter of Excel­lence (MoCe)

Don’t get over­whelmed here. This doesn’t mean cre­at­ing a sep­a­rate divi­sion or busi­ness unit, but sim­ply a focused, tal­ented team with mobile always on their minds. Start small, gather the right group of peo­ple, and begin the col­lab­o­ra­tive process that will cat­alyze your brand for mobile. For more on this topic, see my pre­vi­ous blog.

Step 3 | Build Your Mobile Website

Take a look at what Amer­i­can Eagle Out­fit­ters (AEO) did. They began their mobile strat­egy by opti­miz­ing their web­site for mobile. Their inno­va­tions include launch­ing geo­tar­geted ver­sions of their “land­ing page for vis­i­tors in areas where the com­pany is intro­duc­ing new stores.” This enabled them to “offer coupons on the web­site within spe­cific met­ro­pol­i­tan areas, redeemable within the new stores and specif­i­cally tar­geted to attract new cus­tomers for the company’s youth brands.” Through their mobile-optimized web­site, they track sales and orders from mobile devices, allow­ing them to adjust invest­ments and improve the mobile ver­sion of the site based on data. From there, AEO moved on to build apps for their loyal cus­tomers. Today they are one of the exem­plars in mobile.

Stay tuned for more on mobile strate­gies. Next week I’ll be cov­er­ing the pros and cons of mobile app devel­op­ment and what you should know before you build your own.

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