It’s vacation time. That means fun, sun and, for many people, staying connected with the office via their mobile phone.
According to a recent Harris poll, nearly three out of four Americans admitted they would be angry if they lost their smartphone on vacation because they wouldn't be able to check in at work. But about 51 percent of U.S. adults would rather have a root canal than work [on their mobile phones] while on vacation.
Experiences customers either love or hate
Given the extremes of emotion people feel about mobile devices alone, the same polarity applies to the digital experiences they have there. A flawless experience? Now that’s love. Anything less is like a root canal.
So what constitutes a “great” mobile experience? There are three main characteristics to a great mobile experience, some of which may surprise you: speed, great design and great conversation.
Mobile users’ need for speed
In general, mobile users have high expectations for mobile download speed. For example, in a November 2012 study of US Internet, smartphone and tablet users, 59 percent of participants said download speed was the leading factor for determining whether a mobile website was “good.”
A fast download requires more than tight code. Fundamental design decisions -- such as using responsive web design (RWD) or a more adaptive design approach -- can have a huge impact on speed.
RWD is a client-centric approach that delivers multiple channels’ worth of HTML content to the requesting device. The device then determines what to display, typically using grids that roughly correspond with the screen widths of three key devices: smartphone, tablet and desktop.
Responsive web design … isn’t
In fact, RWD websites send an extraordinary amount of unnecessary content to mobile device. This was proven in a test done by the folks at Akamai Technologies, who loaded 471 responsive design websites in a Google Chrome browser sized to one of four different screen resolutions (1024 x 768, 1600 x 1200, 320 x 480, 640 x 960).
The study showed that, on average, pages on the smallest screen only loaded nine percent less data than those on the largest screen. Overall, nearly three-quarters of the sites analyzed downloaded roughly the same number of bytes to all screens, regardless of the screen’s size.
The moral of the story: RWD quickly generates a large amount of unnecessary overhead. Response times can plummet in seconds, and mobile users hate when that happens.
Mobile users love an optimized experience
“One size fits all” is an ill-conceived promise in general, and in particular when it’s applied to mobile content. RWD sites are, by definition, smaller versions of their big-screen brethren; it’s applying “one size fits all” to digital content.
To deliver a great mobile experience, content should be optimized for the mobile channel. It should be designed to be consumed in a way that is consistent with the way people use their mobile phones, and the size of their individual device. (For example, some mobile phones’ larger screen sizes border on mini tablet size.)
Marketers need tools that allow them to actually visualize what the mobile experience will look like, while that experience is being created.
A mobile preview function lets content editors preview how content will look on a wide range of devices.
When responsive web design makes sense
While sophisticated mobile or enterprise sites may not be ideally suited for RWD, certain applications can work well. These include:
- Form-driven sites, like surveys or data capture
- Small, basic websites on platforms like WordPress, Umbraco and ExpressionEngine
- Simple campaigns on mid-size websites
- Small websites or microsites with short life spans
- Websites with no mobile requirements
- Desktop-to-tablet layouts, in which the content is the same
- Different device sizes within the same device.
The common thread for these ideal RWD applications is their small scope, whether in physical size or duration.
An experience editor lets content editors preview adaptive website content exactly as it will look on a particular device.
The art of (multichannel) conversation
Now, on to the third component of successful mobile digital: great conversation.
As mobile users, we love our smartphones because they’re really an extension of our personalities and lives. This level of intimacy applies to the conversations customers have when they engage with companies and brands on their mobile phones and multiple other channels, often within the same day.
When we’re having that digital conversation by consuming content on our smartphones, we want our mobile conversation partner to be completely up to speed on what we’ve already “said.”
For example, let’s look at luxury impulse buys, such as jewelry designed to be “added on to” with beads or charms; necklaces or bracelets are “built” over time with new additions made of sterling silver, gold and semiprecious stones. These items are highly desirable, and thus impulsive in nature, but a customer may want to “think about it” before making a purchase. So, the path to conversion commonly looks like this:
- An existing customer receives an email from the jewelry company wishing her a happy birthday month. She opens it on her smartphone, is redirected to the jewelry company’s mobile website and looks at choices in her birthstone.
- Later that day, at work, she receives another email from jewelry company, offering her a 20% discount on birthstone charms, and anything else she may purchase that day. From her desktop, she clicks through the company’s website and look again at the birthstone charms, examining them in detail.
- Later that evening, at home on her Apple iPad, the customer goes straight to the jewelry company’s website, which presents her with a personalized 20% discount offer on the home page. She makes her purchase, applies the offer, and says, “Happy Birthday to me!”
The multiplier effect
Four channels: email, mobile, desktop and tablet. Three devices: smartphone, desktop computer and iPad. One single conversation thread, woven seamlessly throughout. The right customer experience platform, in conjunction with an adaptive design approach, uniquely allows companies to track the channel-specific interactions that occur on individual customer journeys.
In contrast, under RWD, it is extremely difficult for marketers to know which channels customers are using for their interactions -- doing so would require significant custom integration between the RWD site and the web analytics system being used. As a result, in RWD environments, it’s nearly impossible for marketers to provide targeted, relevant content or offers, contextual to the devices previously used.
The impact of email that doesn't “look good”
The email-mobile connection can’t be underestimated. The price for delivering unclear or otherwise unattractive email on mobile phones can be steep, and it’s getting steeper. In a 2012 survey by EmailOutbound, a self-serve email marketing platform, 69.7% of respondents said they would just delete messages that did not look good in their phone inbox, but in this year’s survey 80.3% will hit the delete button.
Love or hate?
Like any relationship, finding love with mobile customers requires making good choices at the onset. The right design approach, combined with the right customer experience platform, can help ensure love at first sight -- not memories of a root canal.
Title image courtesy of hxdbzxy (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: Read more about the mobile digital experience here.