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Why Customer-Centric Mobile Optimization Matters

While perusing the latest and greatest stats on mobile adoption rates, I ran across recent report by the  UK’s Internet Advertising Bureau that really got me thinking. It stated that, as of January 2013, 57% of the top 100 UK brands now have a mobile-optimized site — up from 37% just six months earlier.

Given the increase in mobile device adoption and usage rates, this is a promising trend. However, with the increase in traffic, marketers are also reporting high bounce rates and low engagement on mobile devices. This report contrasted with many other sources, which had been touting increased conversions when a brand optimizes for mobile.

What does this mean? It seems to indicate that in the rush to release mobile services, marketers haven’t quite had enough time to understand and implement the specific features that give mobile customers the experience they want.

While it’s critical to address the mobile environment, it’s equally important to address it well. So let’s take a second to look at what constitutes a good customer-centric mobile experience and examine why it’s so closely tied to improving our mobile conversation rates.

The Mobile Mindset

Research shows that when users interact with a mobile device, those activities are primarily task-oriented. Users generally have an idea of what they’d like to achieve — whether it’s finding the location of a store, searching for a restaurant review, or seeking a specific product.

This means that a mobile environment is not the time for parallax design experiments, esoteric brand showcases, or exhaustive feature lists. The primary objectives in the mobile environment are to deliver concise, relevant content as quickly as possible, display it in a seamless and appealing format, and provide the desired end result with as few clicks and as little scrolling as possible.

Additionally, it’s becoming increasingly common for users of a smart phone to also own one or more additional mobile devices (most likely a tablet). Depending on the time of day, these users may be viewing multiple screens at the same time for several different purposes.

For example someone may unwind in the evening by watching TV while browsing on a tablet, with a smartphone nearby for quick text messages. This makes the need for an optimized experience even more critical to capturing conversions — the choices for consuming content are increasing, and the user’s attention span is decreasing.

However, ease of use doesn’t mean a dumbed down experience. To quote Karen McGrane from her book, Content Strategy for Mobile, “If people want to do something on the Internet, they will want to do it using their mobile device. Period.”

Our job is not to make basic needs easy; we need to make complex needs easier to understand and act upon in a brief period of time. If we are able to accomplish this goal effectively and match it with irresistible messaging, we will be rewarded with increased engagement from our customer base.

Mobile Optimized Content

The first rule of mobile optimization is to keep file sizes slim. Consider the on-the-go download limitations of 3G and 4G download speeds on a mobile data network. It’s essential that content is light enough to be displayed quickly, before the user abandons the endeavor and moves onto the next activity never to return.

Never miss the opportunity to refine the amount of content, size of graphics, and/or code — every byte helps. (In fact, a recent report in Mashable said Amazon found that sales increased by 1% for every 100 milliseconds it shaved off of webpage load times.)

Also strive to understand what is most important to your user and show that content first. Identify the primary message and ruthlessly edit the experience down to the most essential information. Then ensure that the content has a clear hierarchy, is legible on a small screen, and can be easily touched by the user.

Ultimately, when reviewing the content, ask yourself: As a user, do I understand the main benefit of the content at a glance? Could I click on a call-to-action without the need to zoom or scroll? If not, then revisit the experience, and revise it until you’re able to answer to questions affirmatively.

Review And Refine The Experience

Customers will not behave consistently across platforms, and differences in behavior can vary by time of day. Monitoring and analyzing traffic patterns, conversion trends and other user-base metrics will provide you with a better picture of who your users are, so that you can answer the question: What do they want?

Remember that customers don’t want more choices — they want better choices. Your job is to identify and provide those better choices. Finding ways to segment and target those customers will help improve their individual experiences and make your content irresistible — and make their choices (i.e., conversions) feel natural and intuitive.

Another aspect of optimizing the customer experiences is continuing to find ways to integrate mobile into the full customer lifecycle. Going back to the multiscreen example: If your customer or potential customer is watching your broadcast commercial on TV (or video on YouTube), what does that mean to their mobile browsing behavior? Are you offering them an appealing next step to engage with your product or service? If your customer is browsing on a smart phone during their commute, can they complete the transaction from their laptop later through a saved shopping cart feature?

Once you’ve moved beyond content optimization, set your sights on optimizing the holistic customer experience.

In Summary

While the good news is that more and more mobile strategies are being put into place, the bad news is that many of those experiences may not actually be effective in meeting the increasingly high expectations of our customers.

The day has come when it’s no longer good enough to execute a mobile strategy — you have to execute an optimized mobile experience in order to stay competitive, win customers and retain their loyalty.

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About The Author

Lynn Baus
Lynn Baus is a Creative Director with Responsys — a technology company with a focus on cross-channel digital direct marketing solutions. Over the last seven years she has created campaign for leading brands, which have been recognized industry wide for their high creative standards and campaign performance.