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What can brands do to improve customer relationships on mobile? And why is brand engagement on mobile so important? The answer is rooted in two unavoidable realities.

Customers today are mobile – an IDG Global Mobile Survey last year found that mobile device use is now ubiquitous. Eighty-five percent of 25-34 year olds and 91 percent of 18-24 year olds use applications and social networking sites on their smartphones.

And with digital media consumption on mobile devices overtaking desktops, the choice is black and white: engage with customers through mobile channels or become a relic of the past.

At the same time, customers' buying behaviors are increasingly tied to their experience with brands. The mobile-first mindset means consumers expect organizations to deliver high-quality, consistent customer service anywhere, anytime and from any device. A personalized, seamless experience at any one of these touch points is essential to customer engagement and loyalty, so much so that 89 percent of consumers choose to do business with a competitor after a poor customer experience, according to a RightNow Customer Experience Report.

We know the "why," now it's time to focus on the "what." Namely, what do brands need to consider to attract and engage customers on mobile?

Ultimately, these considerations boil down to one main premise -- it’s never a good idea to sacrifice performance in the name of features and functionality.

Mobile-First Design

Organizations have adopted responsive web design in the last few years to help manage their mobile assets. With a single website built for both desktop and mobile, backend management becomes easier.

While this sounds great in concept, it can result in a degraded user experience. Site owners who leverage a desktop framework underneath mobile webpages introduce several more page requests, dramatically slowing down the whole process.

Brands should consider mobile-specific designs for webpages to ensure customers don’t experience latency or page quality issues.

A Tailored Approach

Another key area, which is often overlooked, is media content. Desktops can easily support heavier marketing content such as banner images and video ads. That same content on mobile devices may not only have a severe effect on performance, but also may not even be relevant to a customer’s mobile experience, for example, a sales representative chat pop-up.

Tailor the content to mobile devices, particularly as mobile offers the opportunity for deeper engagement. Examine the architecture of each page and audit content based on visitors’ interests to create a faster and more engaging overall experience.

Third-Party Services

Third-party content and other capabilities that integrate into webpages -- for example, images, videos, social sharing functionality, search capabilities and more -- add extra functionality. More capabilities equal a better customer experience, right? Yes and no.

New services and rich features distinguish mobile sites and applications from competitors. However, mobile devices and networks are not as good as desktops at adding latency. Even if a site is optimized for mobile, if a brand leverages capabilities from a third-party that are not optimized for mobile, performance will be adversely affected.

While a business may offer more functionality, users will forego that functionality for a smoother, quicker experience.

What About Context?

Context-specific engagement is where we see the most brand innovation, particularly in the retail industry. For instance, leveraging geolocation to serve a coupon or rebate when a user is in a store. Such capabilities can be powerful and impressive.

For companies that are just now exploring this area, remember to make the contextual offer or service the core focus of the user experience. Avoid the temptation to add analytics capabilities to track metrics and campaign success -- these can affect mobile performance. Brands have one or two seconds to engage with customers. A faulty mobile moment can be disastrous.

Case in point: you send a customer who just entered a store an ad offering 50 percent off any item via a mobile app. If that mobile app crashes when the customer tries to click the coupon or if the page doesn’t load as expected, the customer will be inclined to dismiss future mobile interactions.

Engaging and lively mobile experiences offer a world of opportunity. But brands must see the forest through the trees -- keep in mind each user’s holistic experience, apart from specific feature sets or capabilities.

Almost two billion people around the world now own a smartphone. What sort of market potential awaits organizations that get mobile right?

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Joybot