What is a Mobile-First Approach?
This is our newest blog series featuring expert opinion and experience from Bizness Apps employees in all departments. We aim to capture emerging trends and challenges in sales, marketing, design, and product development. The first blog post in this series on is contributed by our Director of Marketing, Kevin Schrage. Kevin markets hard and enjoys watching sunsets, in that order.
As time spent on mobile has outshone desktop, mobile interactions have also surpassed all other media for brand-based interactions. According to Think With Google, consumers have 2x more interactions with brands on mobile than anywhere else. Mobile now drives 56% of all internet traffic and this number continues to rise, with certain industries like food and dining reaching 72%. In other words, many of your customers are looking for you on their mobile device. In fact, 88% of users who search for a local business on their phone will call or visit that business within 24 hours. And to top it off, 57% of users state they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site. As a business, you know that these mobile moments matter.
What is a mobile-first approach?
Mobile-first not only takes these mobile moments into account, but puts them above all other strategies. More specifically, mobile-first is an approach to design, development, and marketing that puts the user’s mobile experience at its core. While users don’t necessarily consume all content on mobile, it allows you to build out an experience with mobile as it’s starting point. From there, you can progressively enhance to larger screens. It’s essentially the opposite of a responsive approach, where you start with desktop and then optimize for mobile later on or what’s known as graceful degradation.
Mobile-first is often discussed in the future tense, but the reality is that it’s already here. According to GeoMarketing, mobile is the new normal and, as a result, “mobile is one of the “front doors” to a physical business.” Some even say mobile-first is already an outdated term, as we are moving into the era of mobile-only. This trend is spearheaded by the younger generations, as they rarely use a desktop. In fact, over 40 million internet users in the US are mobile-only.
Google’s mobile-first index
Since 2015, Google penalizes websites that are not optimized for mobile. When this new guideline went into effect, nicknamed Mobilegeddon, the search giant started putting non-mobile-friendly sites at a disadvantage, lowering their ranking in the search results. Now, Google will take this a step further and start indexing the mobile version of a site instead of the desktop version.
At the moment, Google ranks websites based on their desktop version and its content. With mobile search outpacing desktop search, it makes sense to rank sites based on their mobile version. What does this mean for your business in the (near) future? For websites that already have a mobile version with the same content as their desktop version, it will not make a difference. However, sites that aren’t optimized for mobile or have different content on mobile could see their rankings affected. If you don’t have a mobile website at all, you won’t just be pushed down in the search results, you might not show up at all.
Google hasn’t implemented this mobile-first index yet, but has pointed to 2018 as the release year. The transition will have a huge impact on search results and could affect a lot of smaller businesses that haven’t optimized for mobile. It’s said to be The Next Mobilegeddon. It’s time to optimize for mobile and merge both desktop and mobile into a seamless experience.
How can I become mobile-first?
The best place to start is with your customer journey. You need to uncover and understand all the touchpoints of your customers and prospects when they interact with your brand. Map out the customer journey to show the progression from first interaction to last – no matter where that might be. How do your customers experience each of these touchpoints?
With this process, you will bring to light the current touchpoints that are mobile or lead to mobile. Now you can look at the design, time to load, ease of navigation, and the overall brand experience. This is a good start in understanding how to deliver a better mobile experience to your customers.
Once you have laid out the customer journey, you must put together a team to start developing a mobile-first strategy. Mobile-first is often thought of as a design-focused project, but it goes beyond there to include marketing and product development strategies. You need to consider everything that can advance and hinder the mobile experience. For instance, is my business easy to find on the mobile web? Will my page load quickly? Can it be found using voice search (think Siri and Ok Google devices)? Is it easy for a mobile user on-the-go to find the information they are looking for (contact us, hours, services)? Are my paid ads optimized for mobile?
Once your team understands the mobile customer journey, you can start developing a strategy for building out a mobile-first experience. The hardest thing about planning for mobile-first is stripping everything that isn’t needed in the mobile environment. You start building an environment in its simplest form to increase speed and declutter the screen. This can prove to be a difficult assignment for your team, as it’s easier to be creative without restrictions. It won’t be easy, but it will dramatically improve the mobile user experience.
Start planning for mobile-first
This all sounds great, right! So how do you get started? Not so fast kemosabe. Transitioning to mobile-first is a time-consuming and expensive endeavor. If not done correctly it could have a negative effect on your online presence and brand. Beforehand, you must weigh the pros and cons of going mobile-first. Will it help you achieve your marketing goals? Will it improve your customer’s experience? Does it advance your overall customer journey?
While it might not be the right time for you to make the switch, it’s important to remember that eventually a mobile transition will be inevitable. In fact, Generation Z, the youngest age cohort, is said to be already moving from mobile-first to mobile-only. In order to cater to this generation – that is gaining purchasing power every year – it should be on your business’ roadmap for the future.
Bizness Apps is using a mobile-first approach with our latest offering, Progressive Web Apps. Mobile-first is about creating the best possible mobile experience, and until recently that was brought about by a native app. However, progressive technology has allowed the native app experience to exist in the web browser. It provides the speed and efficiency that consumers have come to expect. Progressive web apps will become the new standard for the mobile user experience, making them the perfect framework for a mobile-first approach.
The shift to mobile has altered the interactions between consumers and brands forever. The real-time conversations companies have with people as they interact with websites and mobile apps have changed the nature of marketing, design, and development. According to the Digital Marketing Institute, “Companies today need to have a firm grasp on how to utilize the digital universe to maximize their brand awareness and impact.” A mobile-first approach is how you can interpret and cater to this new age of communication.