Most marketers and business owners who have even a remote online presence understand that it is basically a death wish to ignore mobile marketing. After all, the numbers don’t lie: The vast majority of users are consuming content through smartphones. eMarketer found that Americans are spending nearly 3.5 hours per day on their mobile devices, beating out print, radio and PC browsing consumption.
Delivering your messaging through mobile is like aiming at a moving target; marketers must take a focused and lean approach when it comes to building their brand’s mobile presence. Just downsizing a page to fit on an iPhone screen will not cut it in today’s market. There has to be much more thought and finesse taken into consideration when designing content with a mobile user in mind.
While there definitely isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, there are several key strategies to keep in mind. Let’s dive in.
Follow the Fast- and Slow-Thinking Model
First things first. As a whole, your content must grab your audience’s attention, no matter where they are consuming it. On mobile, the headline is especially important. This is because there is less room (and time) to include swathes of text or visual elements.
If you have a clear, enticing headline, your content will instantly pique the reader’s attention. Then, as they read along, they will begin to learn what the content is actually saying. The Buzzsumo site did some in-depth research to find out what type of language drives the best engagement. It found phrases that had emotional appeal or broke things down into numerical steps performed the best. The top performers were "will make you," "this is why" and "can we guess."
This report also indicated that the length of the headline really matters in terms of engagement. Headlines between 12 to 18 words performed the best, but the number varies depending on the channel or platform where you’re posting. For instance, LinkedIn prefers shorter titles, while Facebook readers enjoy longer headlines.
The human attention span is already dwindling, and research has shown that smartphones are distracting us and affecting our cognitive abilities. Therefore, it has become even more important that your mobile content draws users in immediately.
Take these numbers into consideration when formulating your approach. The key is to start with fast thinking with an attention-grabbing title — the reader should know what your content is all about right away. As the content progresses, your words should appeal to the slower process of detailed explanation and demonstrating expertise.
When in Design Doubt, Be a Minimalist
Since the mobile screen is much smaller than a desktop, and is designed to be used by touch rather than through a mouse click, UX must be a top priority. A cluttered interface is not only less visually appealing, it’s also less actionable.
The number of mobile shoppers who abandon their carts sits at an alarmingly high rate of 97 percent, largely due to functional obstacles like complicated checkout processes, frustrating popups and other interruptions. By removing these impediments and sticking to a more streamlined, simple design, mobile retailers can expect much better results.
Kissmetrics has an evergreen article on how to optimize your navigation, typography, imagery and other UX elements for mobile here.
Harvard actually conducted a joint study (opens as a PDF) regarding the effect that simple and complex web designs had on users. Their report found that the more colorful and complicated a page was, the lower it rated on visual appeal with users across the board.
Keep in mind, mobile content consumption is all about quick comprehension. In order to clearly communicate your message, the navigation needs to be ultra-intuitive. This is much easier to achieve with a more basic setup.
The best rule of thumb for mobile design here is to keep things as simple and clean as possible. Remove any extra, unnecessary fluff and make it as easy as possible for your users to get to the core message of every page.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Technical
Using a mobile device offers a level of convenience that you simply cannot attain with a laptop or even a tablet; after all, it can be used anytime, anywhere. For this reason, speed is an essential element when it comes to keeping a user engaged with your content. Customers have little patience when it comes to waiting for pages to load; every second can have a huge impact on your conversions.
Distance is another huge factor. The further away a user is located from the original server (in terms of network hops, which usually correlates with physical distance), the slower their loading speed will be. For this reason, using a CDN (content delivery network) that connects cache servers around the globe can boost load times significantly while lowering bounce rates related to latency.
Include ‘Local’ Extras in Mobile Search for Consumers
Thanks to the myriad geo-targeting options available via smartphones, marketers are able to pinpoint the location and movement of their best customer segments. It helps the consumer too — numerous studies have found that they’re more likely to engage with a brand’s content when it is specific or tailored to their location.
Geo-targeted ads are great for location-specific stores or brands that want to capitalize on a local event, including things like weather conditions or trends. For instance, REI is known to run social advertising campaigns based on the weather occurring in the viewer’s location for the most relevant shopping recommendations.
Another great approach for brands with physical locations is to include embedded links to maps and location services, like Sephora did in this Instagram ad:
By using geo-targeted advertising, marketers have the opportunity to meet their customer's mobile needs and desires in one fell swoop. Nine out of every 10 smartphone users have used their mobile devices for location-based information, making it the most common mobile activity. Marketers must use this statistic to their advantage by offering geo-targeted services that give users the information they want right when they need it.
Over to You, Marketers
Optimizing sites and content specifically for the smaller touch screen is often quite tricky for marketing teams. Some aspects of the page have to be changed completely, which means that it takes longer to release content optimized for mobile. However, failing to fine-tune your pages for a mobile-friendly experience is a big mistake that will definitely cost you customers.
Mobile optimization is all about making the online experience quick and easy. Use enticing language to grab users’ attention, then keep them engaged with a simple, easy-to-use interface. Eliminate frustration and abandonment triggers with speed-enhancing technology. And finally, do the hard work for them by providing location-based services that connect them to the information they want right when they need it. Good luck!
Related story: Travelers Are Mobile, So Their Marketers Should Be, Too
Rohan Ayyar is the regional marketing manager for India at SEMrush. His blog, The Marketing Mashup, covers digital marketing from the perspective of B2B, B2C, lead generation, mobile marketing, SEO, social media, content marketing, database marketing including predictive analytics, and conversion rate optimization. In addition, he'll look at emerging marketing technology and how marketers can use it. Reach Ayyar at firstname.lastname@example.org.