With more than half of digital content now consumed via mobile devices, approaching its creation with a mobile mind-set has become a must. The problem is, taking desktop content and merely porting it over to mobile is not going to work, experts said.
So where is a marketer to start? The first step is to better understand what exactly mobile is.
Adam Broitman, VP of global marketing at MasterCard, said he prefers the term “mobility” over “mobile.” Mobile, he said, is often associated with a device type, while mobility refers to the context in which marketing experiences are executed.
“Under the umbrella of the term ‘mobility,’ we can look at an entire landscape of devices that are made to deliver content on the go, and an experience strategy can be crafted to meet the needs of a consumer, not the functionality of a device,” Broitman told CMO.com in an exclusive interview. “This is a critical distinction in a world where user centricity is a key to product and marketing excellence.”
Marketers must also take care not to put all of those mobility devices into one bucket, added Jeff Hasen, CMO, chief strategist, and founder of Gotta Mobilize. Tablets are connected via Wi-Fi or cellular service less than 20% of the time, while a mobile device is connected to the Internet almost 100% of the time, he told CMO.com. That means smartphone device users are almost always reachable, while tablet owners provide brands more limited access.
And let’s not forget new technology including wearables, which are further expanding mobile’s definition. Right now these devices are still in their infancy, but as consumer adoption rises, so will content consumption. In turn, brands will need to adjust their mobile content strategies.
Understanding The Mobile User
Reaching customers at the right time, at the right place, and on the right device has become an industry mantra. Indeed, consumers will use the device most convenient at the time, and their expectation is that the experience will “rise to the occasion,” said Broitman, adding that notion is what guided the development of MasterCard’s “Priceless Cities” program, among others.
Even though mobile users and desktop users are one in the same, their habits differ based on the devices they’re using.
Mobile users typically use their devices to solve problems or gain information throughout their day, according to Esmee Williams, VP of consumer and brand strategy at Allrecipes.com, whereas desktop users are typically in their offices or homes.
“The mobile user expects a brand to anticipate their needs and deliver a relevant digital experience that is personalized, lightning-fast, consistent across screens, and highly efficient,” Williams told CMO.com.
Hasen echoed Williams' thoughts on personlization on mobile, adding that brands shouldn’t be “serving up meatball sandwich offers to vegetarians.”
“Mobile is for action,” he said, pointing out that mobile searches are more local in nature. “We get things done, be it finding store hours, an Uber, directions to the hotel, or to research and buy the pair of shoes that we see in the window or on a passerby.”
Mobile consumer habits have been evolving, as well. Consumers used to reach for their mobile phones mainly on-the-go, but at home would opt for a laptop or a tablet. Today, mobile consumption often now happens at home via smartphones, not just tablets, Hasen said. The next step is for mobile to be not only used for planning, but actual buying, as mobile commerce experiences mature.
Also worth noting: Many marketers talk about the notion of mobile-first and mobile-only, but that addresses mainly how Generation Z—anybody under 18 years old—operates, according to Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter Group. Indeed, Gen Z consumers only know the world with pinching, zooming, swiping, tapping, and holding, which has great implications on the future of digital content consumption, he told CMO.com.
Allrecipes’ Williams understands that firsthand. Presently, two-thirds of site visits come from mobile devices, but the majority of page views are from desktop. In addition, Allrecipes’ apps have been downloaded 23 million times. “We must consider scrolling, tapping, clicking, swiping, talking, and motion in our site experience to deliver the best possible experience,” Williams said.
Given mobile’s smaller screens, the user experience is paramount, Hasen pointed out. Speed also matters. Four in 10 Americans, he said, abandon a mobile shopping site that won't load in three seconds or less. Additionally, he said, Amazon determined that a page load slowdown of only one second could cost the company $1.6 billion in sales each year. “Obviously, that can’t happen,” Hasen said.
According to Solis, brands need to map the entire mobile customer journey, and have different content scenarios ready for each stage, depending on whether a user is on a smartphone, tablet, desktop, etc. Mobile isn’t just a platform for marketing either, he added.
“[Marketers are going to have to] take control and elaborate or advise customer support, customer loyalty, and advocacy, essentially all things to get people to understand or appreciate that the mobile customer doesn’t click; they swipe and pinch and zoom and tap,” he said. “Just because there are different mannerisms in how you engage with the screen doesn’t mean that it’s not important.”
Mobile Content Dos And Don’ts
The key to great mobile content is to make content “liquid, linked, and loved,” said Adam Kmiec, senior director of mobile, social, and content marketing at Walgreens. Liquid means that the content works on all screens; linked means the content drives an action and never leads to a dead end; loved means the content should be interesting enough that an audience seeks it out.
“With mobile, those three principles are really important, along with ‘time,’” Kmiec said. “A user on mobile absorbs content faster, and you have less time to grab their attention.”
MasterCard’s Broitman suggested making content for mobile more “snackable,” or quick reads. “While consumers are spending more time with mobile devices at home and on their couches, the primary use case for the four- to-six-inch screen is still rooted in mobility,” he said. “Creating snackable content is critical as content is often consumed on a mobile device in the white spaces of one’s day--waiting for the train, between meetings, or any time between longer stretches of attention or activity.”
One common mistake Broitman said he sees brands make is they create mobile experiences that are disconnected from other parts of the same program.
“If you are creating a story arch or experience arch, the arch must consist of a series of elements that, in total, create a cohesive narrative,” he said, citing the Nike+ fitness program as an example for marketers to follow. “Nike+ is not a ‘mobile program’--it is a program that leverages the mobile device. There is a major distinction here; the experience is only magical when a mobile device, a user, and a community are all present. The mobile device may be central to the execution, but the mobile device alone is not the execution.”
Another common mistake among brands is their understanding of responsive design, Broitman added. Responsive design is not purely about adjusting height and width from one screen to another; it also factors in that content consumed on the go often uses 3G or 4G networks with variable speeds. In these scenarios, media assets need to be smaller in order to deliver a pleasing experience.
Like Broitman, Allrecipes’ Williams also suggested snackable content for mobile. For example, in the food world, long recipe titles often will get truncated in search results, which is a poor experience for the consumer. Optimizing content for mobile search is a must, she said.
Providing as many visual cues as possible also helps readers quickly determine the relevance of the content for their particular need.
“Also, ensure the creating and sharing of content is as low-friction as possible,” Williams told CMO.com. “Typing is typically a pain point for mobile users, so evolve your site experience to include engagement that can occur through touch, motion and, voice. Creating, saving, and sharing experiences through earned media should all be touch- and voice-based.”
Williams advised against breaking articles into multiple pages on mobile. Forcing the user to click and wait for new pages to load is not a good experience. Instead, provide a long scrolling page, use a slide show to allow for browsing opportunities, or even break a large article into smaller, more focused articles, she said.
Similarly, mobile videos should be kept short—three to five minutes--because they load faster, get to the point, and can be consumed in the many “in between” moments of our day, Williams added.
At the end of the day, marketers all have a story to tell. “But it happens in different places and at different points of the day,” Gotta Mobilize’s Hasen concluded. “That’s why charting and reacting to the customer journey is so critical. Duplicating content on multiple screens fails to take into account that someone might’ve seen your message earlier and is now turned off by the redundancy. Stay true to what you know—it’s about relevance, descriptive headlines, and engaging visuals.”
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