Customer Experience, Digital Marketing, Smartphone, Tablet, Desktop: Approach Each as Its Own Marketing ChannelThe web can no longer be thought of as a singular marketing channel. The rapid growth of web-connected devices has changed the way we access and interact with the Internet, and simply building a website will no longer suffice as a “web strategy.”

Although there is a broad spectrum of devices that can access the Internet, they fall into three main categories -- smartphone, tablet and desktop -- each of which should be considered its own marketing channel. While there are design and development strategies that can help you accommodate for all devices, segmenting your web strategy into these three categories will help you create more effective experiences and drive better user engagement.


One of the main reasons you should segment your web strategy is the different user behaviors on different devices. Although we’re all accessing the same web, we typically have different motives based on the device we’re using. When it comes to content, smartphones are very commonly used to find quick and immediate answers. “I can’t remember, who directed Avatar again? Let me look it up now.” “What time does happy hour start tonight? Let me look that up now.

Google recently performed a study analyzing how people move between their different screens throughout the day. When measuring the primary motives for using each device, they found that desktop users are motivated by finding information (40% of users reported this activity). When it comes to smartphone devices, users are focused on communication (54%), and for tablet users, their primary motivation for use is entertainment (63%). People use their different devices with very different motives, and instead of using one-size-fits-all messaging, it’s better to segment these different users and market to them separately.

There’s also a big difference in device behaviors when it comes to online commerce. Nielsen performed a study during the 2012 holiday shopping season that focused on the different actions shoppers take on their smartphones and tablets.

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Smartphone users tend to be very value-based in their online shopping activities. They typically use their devices to compare prices and redeem coupons. Tablet users are more transactional and more likely to purchase both goods and services via tablet than smartphone. When designing your e-commerce website, it’s important to understand these differences. Make sure your smartphone visitors can easily compare prices, and that your tablet users can easily take action and make purchases.

SEO and Paid Search

SEO strategies should also differ for smartphone, tablet and desktop. Obviously, it’s important to maintain a consistent message to all users, but there are strategies you can use to get a better return from your various campaigns.

For smartphone searches, it’s crucial to be ranked in the first two spots, because most smartphones don’t see past those first two spots at first. If you’re not focused on driving response actions via smartphone, or those first two spots are impossible for you to attain, it’s probably best not to bid on mobile keywords.

There’s also differences in the content you should display for different ads. As we explained in the section above, smartphone users are looking to take different actions than desktop users -- make sure you’re adword messaging is aligned, and that you have an appropriate landing page setup behind the ad to allow the user to easily take action post-click.

Time of Day

Another main difference in device usage is time of day. People form habits around the devices they use, and have strong tendencies to use one over the other throughout the day. Take a look at this graph below from ComScore:

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Chances are, your daily device usage habits look very similar to this. 80% of people aged 18-44 years old check their smartphones first thing in the morning. People also frequently use their smartphones during the morning commute to pass time. Throughout the work day, PC’s dominate as people are usually at their desks, and then once they arrive home, tablets are by far the most popular devices to browse the web. If you’re running online marketing campaigns, targeting these different device users at the right time can significantly improve your campaign effectiveness.

Web Design Differences

Given the differences between device users, it’s important to consider these as you build each web experience. Engaging people on their different devices is not as simple as adjusting the content to fit the screen. People are looking for different content, looking to take different actions, and have different device capabilities. For example, one of the most effective calls to action on a smartphone is “Call Now,” however, you can’t perform this action on most tablet devices. While this button should be prioritized for a smartphone user, it should be eliminated on a tablet.

Navigation is also important to consider when designing for different devices. If you’re serving tablet users the same menu structure that you have on desktop, chances are that the user has a hard time interacting with that menu, especially if you have hover states. A better tablet navigation structure would be one that slides in from the side featuring big clickable buttons, and subpages that expand and collapse (see below).

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Load times are another important consideration when you’re designing for different devices, most importantly, for smartphones. Almost always, desktop and tablet devices are connected to the web via WiFi, which will allow them to download data quickly. However, smartphones are frequently connected to 3G or worse, and can take a long time to load your website if it’s not built to load quick at that speed. In fact, for every 1 second delay in load times you experience a 7% drop-off rate. Cutting down on image sizes and using server-side coding techniques can help you build smartphone experiences that load as fast as possible on the different connection speeds, so that you’re not bleeding visitors simply because your site isn't loading.

As we become more accustomed to accessing the web across many different devices, we have come to expect an experience that meets our needs. This goes beyond simply rearranging your content to fit on a different screen size. Smartphone, tablet and desktop users are all looking to take different actions and find different information, and therefore we need to tailor an experience to their needs. Being smart about your web strategy and putting yourself in your different users’ shoes will help you build much more effective and targeted experiences across all of the different web-connected devices.

Title image courtesy of SP-Photo (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more from Steffan in 3 Tips to Make Mobile Lead Generation More Effective than Desktop