Mobile-optimized sites should be old hat for businesses these days, especially for businesses that do sales on the Internet. After all, this year the number of mobile devices will exceed the planet’s population. And one-third of Internet users own tablets. And mobile traffic worldwide accounts for 13% of all internet traffic, and in some places it has surpassed desktop. And the amount of money spent on eCommerce sites has increased three-fold year-over-year…… you get the point: mobile is a big deal.
A recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project revealed that 91% of teenagers 12-17 years old have access to the Internet. They also reveal that 78% of teenagers have cell phones and 37% of teenagers have Internet-enabled smartphones. If you want proof that “Gen Z” is indoctrinated with technology far more than any preceding generation, those statistics might do it.
The extent that kids are immersed in these technologies has clear ramification for how they (and probably the rest of us) will be communicating in the future.
When the Pew researchers segmented their respondents further by gender and age, some interesting patterns emerged.
30% of girls are “mobile-only” Internet users compared to 20% of boys. In fact girls rated higher for every measure of technological adoption measured by the study. More cell phones, more computers, more tablets, more mobile only Internet. The difference between genders in social media seems to be consistent in Gen Z as well.
In the age sub-groups, as expected the teenagers (14-17 years old) had a much higher rate of adoption that the tweens (12-13 years old). This seems to indicate a false positive of sorts. Technological adoption is probably higher than Pew reports simply because they are measuring before and after the tipping point where parents mobile enable their kids. It stands to reason that the tween segment will adopt at the rate of the teenagers or higher in a couple of years.
What does this mean?
The mobile enabled teenager at first glance seems to reinforce what Kathy Savitt says about Gen Z: they are the most disruptive generation ever. But there are some disruptive aspects of their technology adoption that I find fascinating for the future.
First off: what is the future for texting and email? 60% of teenage phones aren’t smartphones, which means that the primary means of communication (besides calling) is texting. Email marketing has been shown to be more effective than social media because email has more consistent reach. Now you have a generation of people growing up with text messages serving the same purpose of email for older generations. (Pew reported last year that the average teenager sends 1800 text messages a month). Will teenagers continue to text when they graduate to adulthood? I think that’s entirely plausible and would disrupt quite a few of the marketing and business communications conventions that we commonly see.
Secondly: what is the future of apps versus mobile-enabled sites? There have been many studies showing that people prefer apps to mobile enabled sites (including this one last year from Purdue), but there’s also conflicting information about how many apps each person uses on their smartphone (I don’t use many consistently, probably less than 5% that I’ve downloaded or bought). Clearly there’s a trend towards smartphones within Gen Z, with a significant portion of those users mobile-only. How will they consume and how will they be reached?
Photo by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget (Flickr: Teens sharing a song) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
If you believe that mobile websites don’t matter or are only used in limited settings, I’m here to tell you that you are missing the boat (and business!). I believe that every business needs to have a mobile website or a website optimized for mobile viewing and here is why and how to do it yourself.
As of September 2011, there was a jaw-dropping figure announced – only 1.25% of businesses had ‘mobile-friendly’ websites. This is coupled with Googles’ prediction that 1 billion users worldwidewill use mobile devices as their primary internet access point in 2012! Then, finish the thought off knowing that 1 in 5 users are influenced by the companies mobile website (Call, get directions, visit, or made a purchase on the mobile site).
If that’s not enough to convince you to set up a mobile website, I will keep going. 35% of Americans intentionally use their cellphone while shopping to access mobile sites to compare prices and do product research. 32% of users have changed their mind based on the information they did or did not find on the mobile site.
Mobile and social
Business Owners know they have to have a social media presence, and most have adapted on some level at this point. I love Social, but I won’t go into detail in this blog on that topic – since I already did that here. Suffice it to say, Social Media is one of the driving forces behind the necessity of the mobile website.
Seem like an odd statement to you? It shouldn’t. 65% of all internet users in the US use a social media site. Think there’s an age bias? Wrong. There’s certainly a bell curve of usage, but it seems to be slowly leveling out. In the 50-64 age group, 32% use social media networks daily (with these numbers growing annually) while in the under 30 group, 61% use at least one site everyday. Again, this isn’t a social media focused blog, So i’ll get back on point.
“Alicia, I know social media is important and is used heavily, but what does that have to do with my mobile website?”
Great question! 3 in 5 smartphone users are using their phones to access social media networks (and that number may be even higher now!) So you went through all the work of setting up the website, setting up your business on the various social media networks, and all the other work in between. You take the time and follow the “best practices” for posting on the social networks all for what? To get traffic and convert to sales, right?
Assuming 3 in 5 users view your social media post on a mobile device and click on it (wouldn’t that be great?!?) what do they see? Will the site even come up? Can they read the information? Is it easy to navigate? Slow to load? Take you to a certain page or just drive users to the homepage? Does it discourage users from doing business with you?
After all, the last thing any business owner wants its for their efforts to go to waste. Time, energy, and money are all precious and limited commodities – so let’s make everything count!
I’m ready to build my mobile-enabled site
First, this really breaks down into three distinct choices: Mobile-Friendly websites, Websites optimized for mobile, and a mobile website. And yes, I promise those are three different things
A Mobile-Friendly website is defined as ‘a website that is easily accessible and viewable from a smartphone or tablet via the mobile web’.
A website optimized for mobile is a simplified version of your website laid out and organized such as to only fit in the smartphone screen.
A Mobile website is an entirely separate website built on a subdomain (i.e. “iphone.aliciamariephillips.com”) requiring custom work and made specifically for mobile viewing.
For the do-it-yourself business owner
Almost immediately, the building of a custom mobile website is out, as it is the most expensive option. However, if you are willing to invest the money make sure you seek out an expert that you are comfortable working with who both listens to your suggestions and concerns while recommending the best options for you.
Next, most websites are “mobile-friendly” meaning that they will open on a smartphone and users will muddle through them if need be, zooming in and out on the page as necessary. Not the best option available.
Finally, building a website optimized for mobile was relatively easy in my limited experience. I’ve only used WordPress for my site and there were endless plug-ins you could add that automatically optimize your website for mobile viewing. There is limited customization available on these options, but they are neat, clean, and get the job done. If you built your website on another platform, you probably have a consultant who is either working on maintaining the website, doing SEO work for you, or more. I would seek the advice of that person and talk about this option for your business.
Hopefully you’ve seen the importance of having a mobile website for your business after this posting and know what next step you would like to take. I would love your feedback! What does your business look like on a mobile device? Which option did you use or will you be using? Or do you think mobile websites don’t matter?