Mobile-Friendly Websites Are Now Essential

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By 2020, consumers will conduct 80 percent of their brand engagements via mobile devices, yet too many organizations build their mobile websites without accurate knowledge about, or regard for, their customers’ mobile preferences, according to Gartner.

“While many marketers recognize the need to design for smaller real estate, intermittent connectivity, and fast, simple interactions, often the needs, goals, and expectations of the end users are omitted from mobile strategies,” said Jane-Anne Mennella, senior research director at Gartner. “This results in mobile websites that are just scaled-down versions of desktop websites with identical content and features. Not surprisingly, these mobile sites have high abandonment and low conversion, turning into a source of irritation and frustration for customers.”

The importance of mobile-first has been the subject of many conference marketing presentations for at least five years, yet many companies have yet to embrace the concept. Mennella is at a loss to explain why. “Most of these sites are still ‘desktop-lite,’ rather than being designed for mobile,” she says.

Mobile sites aren’t alone in being poorly designed, according to Mennella. Even though the desktop UI has been around for quite a few years longer than the mobile one, most companies have yet to maximize their development of desktop websites. “Most of [the sites] are just brochure-ware, telling customers what brands want them to know about their companies rather than being designed to help customers achieve their goals.”

Companies need to understand how customers use desktop and mobile, then design the different sites to meet customer needs, Mennella says. “Take the time to do your due diligence to understand how customers are using your sites.”

Mobile sites need simpler design and must be optimized for the company’s typical customer without penalizing the atypical customer, Mennella says, pointing out that if most customers purchase via mobile, companies should make it easy to do so.

Companies also need to ensure, though, that customers who prefer to make their purchases via desktop can start their shopping journey on mobile and complete it on the desktop, and vice versa, Mennella says. “Brands that provide consumers with more choice will have more power.”

She adds that even though the research shows a strong move toward mobile engagement over the next few years, some consumers will still prefer to make their purchases via a desktop, so companies need to keep that in mind during any site redesigns.

To successfully create a results-driven mobile website, Gartner has identified three essential tasks that marketing leaders must do:

  • Determine the why, what, how, and where:Customer behavior, needs, and motivations on mobile devices differ from those on desktops. Marketing leaders should determine what role their mobile site serves for their customers and prospects, what they want to accomplish, and how they use it. Mobile sites that translate this knowledge into focused, validated mobile experiences have high adoption and customer satisfaction levels and deliver conversions.
  • Make data-driven content choices:A mobile site should never be a condensed version of a desktop site. Marketers must take a data-driven assessment of content to ensure that their mobile site has the amount and type of content and functionality their customers need to accomplish their goals.
  • Research and test beyond speed and performance:Many organizations test their mobile sites’ speed and performance but stop their testing efforts after that. Marketing leaders must conduct user research and testing on mobile sites before, during, and after development. This will reveal where interactions are confusing, where customer journeys are prolonged or get interrupted by environmental or design elements, and where content gaps exist.

“As mobile usage continues to grow, so does the importance of mobile websites. Marketers must understand why customers are visiting their organization’s site and what content they need to accomplish their goals,” Mennella concludes. “It is only by putting the customer first that going mobile will work.”

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