If you haven’t optimized your website for mobile traffic yet, you are likely missing a big opportunity to market to prospects and strengthen engagement with your current customer base. So the question becomes, what are you doing to optimize your mobile website?

comScore reported earlier this year that there are more than 100 million smartphone users in the United States alone and mobiThinking reports there are now more than 1.2 billion mobile web users worldwide, accounting for more than eight percent of total web traffic.

Clearly, with the ongoing proliferation of browsers and devices that can access your content and commerce offerings, the mobile web opens up a vast new audience of potential visitors to your site. In fact, Gartner predicts mobile will be the number one Internet access device as early as next year.

Your standard web site may be performing extremely well, but you’ll need to re-think what constitutes a successful site when you dive into the mobile web, because mobile is different. Analyses of consumer behavior have shown that mobile users have different needs and expectations than desktop users. The “on-the-go” environment, task-at-hand and physical device constraints all differ, often dramatically.

When you initiate a plan to “mobilize” your standard website, you’ll save a great deal of time, money and resources by doing it right the first time.

Optimize Without Boundaries

Where to start? The top priority for mobile must be to provide a compelling user experience. There is no magic bullet to creating a mobile site that attracts and converts traffic, so the best way to understand how to create a compelling mobile site is to experiment.

Mobile optimization using A/B and multivariate testing has been proven to be one of the most effective and immediate methods to increase sales, enhance visitor engagement and encourage content consumption.

Common methods for running controlled experiments on both websites and mobile sites range from simple A/B testing to sophisticated multivariate testing. In A/B testing, one or more new versions of a page or single element compete against the original (control) version. For example, two new versions of a button might compete against the original headline.

Multivariate testing, on the other hand, is like running many A/B tests concurrently, where there are multiple elements being tested at the same time. For example, two alternate buttons, plus two alternate navigation styles, plus two alternate calls-to-action create a total of 27 possible combinations (including the original control versions).

Think about using multivariate testing in your mobile strategy for learning how to better influence and persuade visitors to:

  • interact with your mobile brand, content and functionality
  • adopt mobile site features in order to get information on the go
  • click-through to mobile ads and geo-aware offers, such as coupons
  • register for mobile accounts
  • download digital products such as ringtones, wallpapers, apps, etc.

Since many organizations have not yet allocated a specific budget for their mobile initiatives, testing a subset of existing, highly-trafficked content on a targeted mobile audience can provide a low-cost and low-risk stepping stone towards building a business case around making a more formal investment in mobile optimization.

Targeting Your Mobile Audience

Tests have proven that showing mobile users’ content that is specifically tailored for mobile devices improves the user experience, makes the site stickier and, ultimately increases conversion rates. But even within a "mobile-friendly web site," there's more that can be done to improve user experience even further.

With mobile targeting, web marketers and analysts are able to test, measure and deliver the content, layout and promotional offers that are more effective for each category of mobile devices, which considers more granular capabilities such as the following:

  • Keyboard type: physical versus touch screen keyboard
  • Screen dimensions and rotation support
  • Cellular network data speeds: 2.5G, 3G and 4G
  • Mobile operating system: Apple iOS, Android, Windows Phone Mobile
  • Browser capabilities: scaling, Flash and AJAX support

For example, a mobile site can use targeting to present devices with larger, high resolution displays with a richer, more graphically dense UI. On the other hand, older devices, or those on slower mobile networks, could be presented with a leaner version to ensure speedier browsing.

Technical Constraints … Or Not?

shutterstock_89211373.jpg While marketers may be accustomed to utilizing JavaScript-based testing tools for their desktop sites, care should be taken when deploying these types of tools for mobile web content. With mobile content, every byte downloaded takes extra time, and in the case of JavaScript, also requires additional time to parse and execute. Even on the fastest 4G devices, the same exact page often takes ten times as long to load as it does on a desktop, largely due to additional latency from the mobile network. The way around this concern is to utilize non-intrusive mobile testing and targeting solutions which do not rely upon JavaScript operations for generating content variations.

Once you’ve chosen the right optimization platform, you’re ready to get started on the path to improving your site for mobile users. With relatively little in the way of best practices for the nascent mobile channel, it can be difficult to know beforehand which content, user interface element or aesthetic will be most effective with your audience. That’s why it’s critical that you test your mobile offerings before launching them so you can discover which content your users prefer on their mobile devices.

Discover what works by testing elements such as navigation, image size, image choice, specific words or phrases, placement, design, graphical elements, headlines, colors, variations in functionality, or dynamic content.

What's important to understand about mobile optimization is that it not only shows you which combination of elements your visitors prefer, but it reveals which individual elements influence visitor behavior vs. those that do not. For example, did variations in the product image influence visitor behavior more, less or the same as the copy?

Understanding how each mobile site element influences the visitor experience is the essence of a "test-learn-repeat" process that marketers can use to prove (or disprove) the effectiveness of new ideas and continually improve their mobile site's ability to achieve -- and exceed -- their marketing goals.

Image courtesy of Artsous (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more about mobile websites: Opportunities and Challenges of Mobile Websites