Internet getting increasingly mobile has long been a hot topic. Naturally, lots of site owners are embracing mobile search to increase multi-screen audience reach and drive more traffic to their sites.
In this post, I'll share different approaches to engaging with mobile users. One normally decides what approach to use based on the size and the type of their business, and the resources they can allocate for a mobile campaign.
1. A mobile website
This approach lies in creating a separate version of your site to show to mobile visitors. As a rule, the mobile version has less content than your original site and offers navigation that's far better suited for mobile browsing.
For example, many online businesses nowadays have an m.example.com subdomain, to which mobile visitors get redirected based on their device/user agent. A link to the full-fledged version is normally provided as well, in case one wants to see the entire site.
- Flexibility. Mobile users normally want certain type of content, such as a business's location, hours of operation, directions, etc. With a separate mobile site, it's easy to make your webpages designed specifically for mobile users, that is, to fill them with substantially different information than the one would expect to see on a non-mobile site.
- Analytics. From a marketing point of view, it's best to have your mobile traffic go into a separate sales funnel. So, a mobile site provides you with all the necessary analytics for a mobile campaign.
- Hard to cover all bases. With this approach, it is hard to tune your site to all possible types of handheld devices it might be accessed from. However, if you primarily target, say, iPhone users, this is not an issue.
- A fuss to maintain. Even though your mobile site may be well-synched with your main site, it still requires maintenance, and you'll have to keep that in mind each time your update your content or make changes to your site.
2. Responsive web design
Responsive web design (RWD) is a relatively new method of making a site render well across a wide range of handheld devices. This approach lies in coding in such a way that a site's content gets automatically adjusted to the height, the width, the resolution and other characteristics of a particular gadget.
- Easy to implement. Ask any web developer what they think about RWD, and they will tell you it simply rocks. The secret behind this method's popularity is that it's a much more streamline solution compared to designing a mobile site that needs to be adjusted separately to each device type.
- Easy to maintain. One of the biggest advantages is that, once you build a site with responsive Web design, it can be maintained pretty easily.
- Not all devices support media queries. For RWD to work, the handheld device one uses to view a site needs to support CSS media queries, which is not the case with some mobile gear.
- May not be an option for some. Implementing responsive web design means a major re-design of a site's layout and structure, which may not be an option for some website owners.
3. A mobile app
Mobile apps take mobile user engagement to a new level. They are said to be the user-friendliest solution to mobile Web marketing – according to a Jakob Nielsen research, they have the "highest success rate".
At the same time, studies indicate that each 4th mobile app people install is never used again. Well, this is not surprising, taking the number of brands who offer mobile apps these days.
- A total usability winner. Again, mobile apps perform way better than mobile sites or even desktop websites (according to Jakob Nielsen).
- It's great for branding. When your business offers an application designed specifically for mobile users, it means you're serious about your company's reputation and are ready to go out of your way to reach mobile audiences.
- A costly solution. You might have noticed that it's mostly big brands like OpenTable, Zagat that develop mobile apps (or even several solutions for different platforms).
- Requires extra effort on behalf of the user. Did I just say that every 4th installed mobile app is never used again? That's right, getting people to install/use your mobile app is a whole different story. So, most likely, only your loyal customers or those pretty far in their buying cycle would do that.
4. Local + Social
Now, the success of a local business largely depends on how visible it is on Google Places (it has now become Google+ Local). Hence, local business owner can well use the mobile version of Google+ Local as a platform to promote their venues.
Besides, let us not forget about social. All big social networks offer mobile solutions, and one can use them to engage with their mobile audiences via Facebook (which has a mobile site AND a variety of mobile apps), Twitter and others social networks.
- It's cost-effective. This approach spares one the need to develop a mobile solution of their own. So, the method is perfect for small (local) businesses that can't afford to build a separate site/app.
- You kill 2 birds with 1 stone. When you invest promoting your local/social venue, you tackle desktop and mobile users at the same time.
- You depend on a third-party platform. If one day you decide to move your mobile Web presence to another platform or something happens to, say, Google+ Local mobile, there will be nothing you can take away from it.
- Limited flexibility/options. With a mobile site or a mobile app, you can unleash your creativity and control your mobile page’s design and layout, but you can't really do it with a third-party platform.
5. Offer-oriented mobile Web presence
Some digital marketers advocate going by individual offers designed for mobile users. One can create a separate page/Tweet/app to advertise a product line, a seasonal sale and what not. Such offers often rely on mobile tagging (QR codes and such) to reach the user and require one to perform a simple action. For example, one can be asked to make a purchase, click to call, click to email a link, etc.
For instance, there was an exemplar promo campaign Airwalk did in partnership with GoldRun and Young & Rubicam. They put up several so-called invisible popup stores in New York City and Los Angeles to sell their limited edition sneakers to youngsters right at popular skating locations.
- Low-budget. Well, of course, not every offer-oriented mobile campaign comes cheap, however, at the lower end, it can be done on a pretty scarce budget. For example, you could stick a mobile-optimized page to your site and send traffic to it via a QR code, etc.
- No need to maintain. Once the offer expires, you can simply call it a day and forget all about it. Besides, you are completely free to choose a new/different mode for your next mobile offer – you're not tied to a particular platform in this case.
- No assets produced. After your promo campaign is over, there is not much left for you to keep, except for, perhaps, the new clients you've acquired during it. Otherwise, no website/code/app that you can use is produced.
- Short-term branding value. If, with a mobile site/page, users can find your business on their handheld device any time they search for it, with the offer-oriented approach, no such thing is possible, which doesn't help your brand's reputation in the long run.
As you can see, there are many approaches to promoting a biz to mobile users that fit different budgets, from developing a mobile app to using QR codes to get people to follow you on Twitter, etc.
Can you think of any more cool approaches to developing mobile presence? Share them in your comments!
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