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The mobile Web: Act now or risk missing out

With mobile Web usage on pace to overcome desktop access, marketers have realized that having an optimized site is a crucial element in a 360-degree mobile strategy. However, many brands are still missing the mark when it comes to taking full advantage of the opportunities that mobile Web offers.

It is important for marketers to constantly test what works and what does not and align it to an overarching business objective. Although it is important for marketers to have a mobile site at the bare minimum, brands should also look at what others are doing in the space and include features such as location and social media that help set apart their mobile initiatives.

?A new brand getting into mobile first must determine what their strategic goals are for entering mobile,? said Marci Troutman, CEO of SiteMinis, Atlanta.

?It is critical to start with something quickly and learn to use mobile as the customer centric-engagement platform that mobile is,? she said. ?It is a mistake to wait to launch the perfect mobile site before getting out there in the public.?

?Mobile is a work in progress. It is critical that the organization start learning now.?

Mobile mindframe
Mobile undoubtedly requires marketers to develop a different mindset than the Web.

Smart marketers are able to build on their previous initiatives as technology becomes more sophisticated.

For example, Time Inc.?s People magazine recently revamped its mobile site with a responsive design that featured content which was targeted by the time of day.

The publication also increased sharing functions after seeing that its users were not coming to the mobile site for short periods of time. According to the company, 25 percent of users spend more than five minutes on People?s mobile site (see story).

Additionally, Sephora recently rolled out new versions of its Web site, mobile site and iPhone app simultaneously. The mobile aspects of the revamp focused on a quicker check-out, new search features that help consumers find products and social media integration, all of which build on the company?s past endeavors (see story).

Sephora's mobile site

Missed opportunity
On the other hand, some brands that are rolling out mobile sites are missing the mark when it comes to certain features.

For instance, an online travel company should always include location to let users find nearby hotels since the main goal is to drive hotel bookings. Without it, users are likely to go elsewhere, most likely to a competitor site.

Budget is a major concern for many companies getting into mobile, which partially explains why some are not taking full advantage of the mobile Web. However, there is also stiff competition across all sectors with both big brands and small businesses realizing that mobile is contributing to higher amounts of Web traffic and in order to keep up they must develop a mobile site.

In addition to all of the basics, marketers should also personalize their mobile sites to give consumers an incentive for using their handsets.

?Due to the small screen, mobile must be easily accessible and easy to consume, so a shopping experience should have large photographs, a selection of ratings and reviews and bulleted product info,? said Eric Newman, vice president of products at Digby, Austin, TX.

?In deciding what else to add to the mobile experience, brands should return to their company mantras and create an experience tailored to their core beliefs,? he said. ?If they are built on being an expert, including the blog could be relevant or if they are more about social commerce, maybe social sharing should be more emphasized.?

Tab into opportunities
In addition to new opportunities on smartphones, many marketers are tweaking their Web sites specifically for tablets.

Making sure that all content fits on a tablet screen and is relevant to a consumer browsing on their devices is key.

More companies are betting on HTML5 and responsive design as a catch-all for their mobile Web initiatives to create a consistent, cross-platform solution.

For instance, Staples recently rolled out a tablet-specific version of its site to give mobile users a rich, browser-based experience (see story).

Additionally, Jack Daniel?s recently redesigned its desktop and mobile site with responsive design so that content looks the same across the Web, smartphone and tablet platforms (see story). 

Mobile sites designed in HTML5 also tend to resemble more of an application, which is typically associated with stronger loyalty for marketers. With its broader reach and a smaller cost than an app, HTML5 has big implications for brands and retailers trying to decide between developing an app or mobile site.

?Tablets are quickly on their way to becoming the most popular Web browsing devices, so brands need to keep the tablet in mind when developing Web sites,? said Eric Mason, United States director of communications for Wix, Tel Aviv.

?HTML5 should be a priority, as 68 percent of the world?s tablet market are iPads,? he said.

?Tablet users are often on the go or multitasking, so ease-of-use is key. Because tablet users literally touch the brands represented, tablet-optimized Web sites should be as interactive as possible.?

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York