I’ll be honest. I could probably reduce this blog post to the following sentence: You should ensure your website is mobile-friendly because so many people use their phones to browse the web, and not doing so in this day and age would surely cost you customers.
And that would be a true enough summary: by now, it’s common knowledge that the mobile market is more or less dominant, and that alienating these users is a major mistake for businesses across the board.
But ‘common knowledge’ is not enough to go on in a data-driven industry like ours. If we’re going to make a recommendation for how mobile-focused you should be in your digital presence, we should probably back it up with some good old fashioned, data-based rationale, no matter how sensible the original suggestion sounds.
So let’s take a look at some of the reasons outside of “‘cause lots of people do it” that you should be thinking about this ever-growing segment of your audience.
First Things First…
I’ll admit I misspoke in my attempted summary up there, and this correction ties back to the core point of this post, so pay attention!
You should not ensure your website is mobile-friendly. You should ensure your website is mobile-first.
As we’ve mentioned in a few blog posts past, Google has been working on splitting their index in two: one for desktop, one for mobile – and the tap-and-touch crowd wins as far as audience priorities go. That means there will no longer be one central set of search results for any given query, but two separate ones for each respective device, with mobile as the frontrunner.
And that means even if you have the most well-designed, perfectly-optimized, user-friendly website in the world of desktop, but haven’t done a thing to optimize it for mobile, a serious chunk of people aren’t ever going to find it via search.
It may sound like twice the work, but really, it’s a simple matter of ensuring design and development are as smooth on mobile as they are on desktop. This was more or less the case back when it became clear how popular the mobile market was becoming: now, Google has merely provided us with more of an incentive to perform our due diligence.
Cater to the Crowd
Brass tacks: smartphones are extremely popular.
We all know this, but on its own, that statement doesn’t have a whole lot of impact. It isn’t news, and I assume that nobody’s jaws are on their floor after reading it.
So here’s my first data-based fact on the subject:
Yes, indeed. And while this is a relatively recent development, here’s another one from two years ago, back in May of 2015. My second data-based fact:
Definitely. it seems we are now past the era of desktop dominance when it comes to how people search, and there’s no reason to assume this trend will reverse or slow down.
It didn’t happen all at once, no. The process was piecemeal, but it seems we’re now finally arriving at a point where both the journey and the destination are more popular on mobile, and that’s why it’s essential you ensure you’re well-equipped to serve visitors from both sides of the spectrum.
Micro-Moments and the Art of ‘Right Place, Right Time’
We’re a pretty impulsive species: usually when we want to know something, we want to know it like, now. And since so many of us are walking around with what more or less amounts to an encyclopedia inside of our pockets, it’s incredibly easy – almost to the point of instinct – to reference them when we want to know anything, from where the nearest pizza place is to the circumference of Mars (apparently it’s about 21,344 km).
These impulsive, let-me-check-my-phone incidents are known as micro-moments. Here’s an expanded definition from our friends at Google:
Micro-moments occur when people reflexively turn to a device—increasingly a smartphone—to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something. They are intent-rich moments when decisions are made and preferences shaped. In these moments, consumers’ expectations are higher than ever. The powerful computers we carry in our pockets have trained us to expect brands to immediately deliver exactly what we are looking for when we are looking. We want things right, and we want things right away.
The mobile market has given birth to both the rise of micro-moments and the expectation that the questions that come with them can be instantly answered. If one of your customers turns to their phones for a question you can answer, being prepared with good content on a fast, responsive (i.e., mobile-first) page will put you in their good books – and may even earn you a rich card.
Now We’re Talking to Robots
Can you guess what goes hand-in-hand with micro-moments?
Though it doesn’t seem to have gained the momentum that the mobile market as a whole did – yet – it shouldn’t be discounted: according to Google last May, 20% of mobile queries are voice searches.
This is largely due to the growing digital assistant market, as the above article points out:
The range of virtual assistants, such as Siri, Cortana, Google Voice Search/Now, Viv, Amazon Alexa, and now, Google Home, are collectively training people to search using their voices and to become more “conversational” with search and mobile devices.
Again, it hasn’t quite peaked yet, but if – and there is very little room for doubt here – digital (robot) assistants continue to evolve, there’s going to be continued potential for people to pull out their phones and ask them a question as conversationally as they’d ask a friend. And with that will come the increased expectation for instantance, authoritative answers.
Start Putting Mobile First
It’s not a trend. It’s not a fad. It’s not something that’s going to go away when people get bored and decide to go back to lugging their laptops around with them.
Mobile has caught up and surpassed the usual ways we’ve been used to searching over the past two or so decades, and now both businesses and marketers have been forced to adapt to the demands of the new digital world. The demand for information in the here and now and the subsequent ease of its delivery has set a new standard: mobile must come first.