The world is currently undergoing a massive change and in recent years there has been an exponential surge in the usage of smartphones and tablets. With the boom in bandwidth, processing power and storage, people around the world no longer use their personal computers to observe the online world. Instead, they rely on their mobile devices to deliver information. This has a proportional impact on how your consumers interact with you and if you haven’t devised a mobile first strategy to deal with this situation, it’s high time that you should.

How to Make Your Company Mobile First?

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In the following article we will look at 1) a statistical analysis of mobile phone usage, 2) mobile first strategy, 3) steps in becoming mobile first, 4) game changers that started off with a mobile first approach.

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF MOBILE PHONE USAGE

Currently, United States is catering approximately 163.9 million smartphones and more than 60 percent of the searches are being made through mobile devices while approximately 46 percent of people use their mobile phones exclusively to conduct searches. According to analysis of last year’s Black Friday sales, 30 percent of them were exclusively driven by mobile phones testifying further on how mobile devices have changed the game.

In order to cater to the growing number of mobile consumers, Google has decided to revise its search engine algorithms. According to an engineer from Google, new algorithms will soon be implemented to give a positive bump to mobile-friendly websites while overlooking websites that haven’t revamped themselves to be mobile friendly. The same trend is expected from other search engines including Bing and Yahoo.

Consumerization of IT is happening and analysts believe that this will open up a wide range of possibilities which will allow marketing and content targeting to be done at a more personal level than ever before. By consumerization we refer to the active collection of search engine data and tracking various other forms of online activity such as websites visited, searches made and preferences selected to target consumers which would most likely respond to your company.

MOBILE FIRST STRATEGY

Mobile first strategy basically means that your entire strategy to amplify your company’s engagement with consumers is based primarily around mobile devices. The mobile first strategy is all about creating a new approach that is mobile-centric rather than adapting an already available desktop format and supplying it to the consumers. The company should work around and gain solid knowledge about how their company’s direction of going mobile would impact the users, the benefits they may be able to reap and the information that can be accumulated. All these ideas should be kept in mind because ultimately these are the ones that will steer the direction of your company.

1) Considerations for Mobile Developers

While considering a mobile first web design, developers need to consider the fact that many mobile phones do not have the capability to seamlessly support content that desktop browsers do. A mobile first web design needs to cut back on many features while ensuring that the site will still remain fully functional despite the scale down. Users with the simplest setups are also to be taken into consideration and a site that would function across multiple platforms is to be formulated.

When creating a mobile presence one of the following methodology is adopted:

  • Graceful Degradation (shifting from desktop to mobile): A mobile first web design is based around two basic ideas. The first one being graceful degradation in which a full-fledged desktop-based website is stripped of its various elements to create a website that can cater to mobile devices having lesser capabilities. This methodology is adopted when a desktop-based website or application is being simplified to be operable on mobile devices.
  • Progressive Enhancement (mobile first approach altogether): Progressive enhancement on the other hand was an idea to gradually enhance the simple mobile based website to suit devices that have advanced capabilities such as support for additional third party plug-ins, better processing power or storage options. This methodology is adopted when a company starts off with a mobile first approach or when a simple mobile-based website or application is improvised and enhanced to accommodate high-end mobile devices or even desktops.

2) Mobile First Web Design and Responsive Website Design

Responsive website design is based around the idea of adjusting the website designing according to the viewport size of the device and media queries. A good viewport device would get additional styling and a website ramp up whereas the website would be dumbed down to minimal resolution for smaller devices.

Mobile first web design is simply the extension of support to mobile devices with no change occurring in the design or resolution with device variance. Mobile first web design adopts a basic one for all approach regardless of device type.

The best thing however, is the fact that these designing strategies are not competitive, instead they complement each other.

3) Weighing in on How Mobile First Strategy Might Benefit You

If the statistics above weren’t satisfying enough, let’s put you into perspective with how a mobile first approach promises you a game-changing possibility.

Multitude of information – Targeted promotions, customer preferences, ROI and much more: When you adapt a mobile first approach, you need to appreciate the plethora of information which will accumulate in your database as people use their personalized mobile phones. This enormous data can be parsed through and intelligent decisions can be deduced, based on the current consumer trends. Keeping these trends in mind a new strategy can be devised which will better cater to the needs of the customer.

Targeting consumers, offering them promotions based on their location (geo-targeting) is currently a trend that many retail chains all around the world are working on. Based on their shopping trends, browsing history, device information and personal information, stores are being empowered to communicate with their consumers at a more personal level.

Such information not only opens up doors for new marketing opportunities but also gives you a fair insight about the efficiency of your company’s current strategies and how profitable your ROI is. A total personal evaluation can be made through data analytics.

Financial Services – eWallets, the future of payments: Many banks are currently collaborating with payment services that are being offered by Google and Apple. In the near future as more and more firms start accepting mobile payments, you will need to rethink your payment strategies in order to ensure you don’t get left behind in the competition. A catalytic factor in this payment methodology is the equipping of Near Field Communication chips in smartphones which are enabling secure and easy payments. As technology advances, leather wallets will eventually become primitive and e-wallets would be the new in thing.

Mobile Applications – for customers and staff: With the advent of large retail stores, many shoppers find it difficult to look for things. To keep cost from fumbling out of control, stores keep their work staff lean. This makes the shopping experience troublesome and painstaking for customers. Many retail stores are currently working on providing customers with applications that gives them the exact layout of the store and allow people to make searches about the products they are looking for. Sales people can be added and this will provide a comfortable experience to the user. However, make no mistake this strategy isn’t just for retail chains, many service providing firms are also striving toward building applications which allow people to get real time updates and notifications to make their client’s life easier.

A mobile first strategy also paves way for a productive staff. Customer service representatives can work with more mobility through tablets and smartphones equipped with applications. They can manage customers on the floor with relative ease, check inventory for products, give product arrival dates, manage exchanges and the list goes on. All without the hassle of making customers stand in a queue at the customer service counter. Many leading retailers are already using smartphones and tablet devices as their Point of Sale device which is saving their customers precious time and all the while making the sales team more productive.

Empower your customers – enhance their buying decisions: While you are paving a new path for customers, you can also help them make better buying decisions by providing them quality information about the products. Your customer can make searches about the product and your application will provide them with authentic reviews and if the product doesn’t exist in your inventory, it can provide with better alternatives.

4) Constraints of Mobile First Strategy

The first and foremost constraint of opting a mobile first approach is the fact that at present there is still a vast majority of internet users that prefer surfing the internet utilizing their notebooks or desktop devices. No doubt, mobile devices are the next big thing, however, neglecting an already existent database by opting a mobile first strategy seems to be a gamble.

The second pitfall of a mobile first web design is that the consumers expect functionality which is equal to or supersedes the desktop version. They overlook the technical inhibitions that mobile devices put up such as lack of plugin support. In order to deal with this situation, most enterprises develop a two way approach. A mobile website is developed that can cater to primitive devices and an application is designed which can provide additional functions and ease-of-use.

STEPS IN BECOMING MOBILE FIRST

Step 1. Calculate the benefits – to the company and your consumers from your mobile first approach

If you have decided to step up in the game and are willing to endorse the mobile first strategy, then you need to hit the blackboard and think how a mobile experience would be refreshing and productive for consumers. Before providing your consumers with just a mobile application or a website, think of all the benefits that your customers might reap through the mobility and freedom. You need to address the following questions:

  1. How the mobile experience would be significantly better and different from the desktop one?
  2. Would your users be able to accomplish any tasks through your mobile strategy?
  3. If so, would it be faster to achieve the desired results through a smartphone?

Because mobile first strategy is not just about mobility but also about carrying out tasks at a much faster rate than a desktop device.

Step 2. Make a choice; Mobile Applications or Website

You need to choose what you aim at delivering to your target audience because this decision will not only impact how you kickstart your marketing campaign but will also influence on whether you want an application or a mobile website.

A general rule of thumb is to opt for creating a mobile website if you wish to deliver content, media or just establish a general brand presence on the mobile web. However, if you aim to deliver functionality or general tools to your end user then you need to design an application across multiple operating platforms.

Most enterprises adopt both techniques; a mobile website for primitive devices and a mobile application for better configuration devices.

However, one must keep in mind the pitfalls of both mobile websites and applications. When designing an application, you must bear in mind that with every operating system update or general security patches, your application might become unstable. This means that technically your application should start developing an update as soon as a software update is released. In this matter, websites are relatively easy to manage, since content updates are the only thing that’s required however, as we mentioned earlier, websites deliver less functionality especially on mobile devices due to lack of plugin support.

Step 3. Figure out your approach’s X-Factor

Once you’ve decided why you want to empower your brand to go mobile, it’s time you think over how to convey the idea to the users. Food for thought, there are currently more than 500,000 apps in the Google and Apple application stores respectively; in such a tough competitive environment, you need to weigh your approach carefully and tread the new market carefully. Ask yourself, what benefit would your application provide that the currently existing applications do not? Perhaps a cleaner interface? Less hassle on the configurations? Faster and better way to get things done?

Step 4. Set up your marketing approach

As soon as you figure out your own unique angle you need to address the burning question and that is how you would distribute your application amongst the users. Carefully designed strategies have a clear cut path evident to them. When stepping in a new market consider SEO implementation, Social/viral marketing, great app store rankings, appreciable reviews, testers and developers, free trials and so on. Try out various approaches and notice which one works out best for you.

Step 5. Add a flavor of social media to the mix

Social media is the big thing of today. A phenomenon on Social Media gets widespread attention from audience all across the world. Overlooking the massive user base that social media services are currently accommodating would be a blunder. When designing a website or an application, allow your users with the freedom to share content on their social channels. This will not only create a pleasurable experience but will also serve to increase your exposure.

Step 6. Decide how you would gain revenue

Once you’ve worked your way through your business model, you need to decide on your source of revenue. Go through your strategy and decide whether you will be charging your customers for utilizing your application or would you rely on your business partners for revenues. You can also opt an advertising approach which, albeit a bit scrupulous, aids you in the sense that you can get a strong user database. However, advertisements can be a bit annoying for users so allow them to have the option to switch to premium when they so desire. Many mobile based enterprises adopt a free version which include basic features and a premium version which is ad-free and includes additional features. Test multiple revenue models and see which one works out best for you.

Step 7. Code, Test, Improvise

Once done, it’s time to laydown brick by brick the entire interface to your website or application. While designing keep a few precautions in mind. People tend to sway away from your website if it has massive loading times, similarly, a website designed keeping a high end phone in mind won’t work across the board due to different configurations. Plug-ins should be avoided since most mobile web browsers do not support them. In case of applications, test out how your application drains battery and uses processor power. An application which optimally utilizes the available resources helps in gaining a favorable opinion.

After the designing is complete, test out your application or website across different configurations and operating systems. Accommodate beta testers to aid you in the testing phase. Every error should be adequately countered since, any downtime in the opening phase of your company would leave a foul impression on the users. Ensure adequate testing has been done before publishing your application or website.

Take the opinions of the testers and users seriously and consider paying heed to them. The feedback helps you in improving your current mobile approach while also assuring consumers that the enterprise takes their comments seriously.

Step 8. Precautions in design

When devising an application, an important consideration is to devise an application which works in harmony with other applications. Ensure that users can work on different applications while staying inside your application. For instance, if a user wants to share a review that he read in your application on a social networking site, allow him to utilize the sharing option and publish the link directly rather than having him close the application, switch application and then share. This will not only create a pleasurable user experience but will also save them from pointless effort.

Similarly, when designing a website ensure that your website is responsive and responds to different screen real estates with a different page layout. Manually resizing the website to accommodate your screen is a tedious task and tends to give a negative impact on your users.

GAME CHANGERS THAT STARTED OFF WITH A MOBILE FIRST APPROACH

  • Facebook, the social media giant currently gains 75% of its advertisement revenues through ads running on mobile phones.
  • Pageonce, currently a top personal finance application started off its operations in 2008 by adopting a mobile first approach and currently processes $1 million in payments every day.

Mobile phones are currently flourishing and in the coming years they will surpass desktops as being the personal computer. More than 50% of mobile phone consumers agree that their smartphones is their first screen of choice. So if you don’t go mobile then you’re missing out on a huge chunk of potential consumers.

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