With sales of Web-enabled smartphones exploding worldwide— experts from RBC Capital Markets expect smartphone sales to eclipse worldwide PC sales by the end of 2011—marketers are looking for ways to tap the full reach and revenue potential of the mobile Web. Delivering rich and engaging mobile websites that offer the ease-of-use and convenience users are accustomed to on desktop computers is a key component in successful mobile strategies.
Use of the mobile Web as a commerce platform has grown significantly in recent years, as well. Almost half of all Web-enabled phone owners make purchases from their devices. And beyond purchasing, shoppers use mobile devices to augment the decision-making process while they're perusing store aisles—for example, reading reviews, comparing products and prices, and determining if a particular product is in stock.
By virtue of this convenience, the mobile Web offers marketers opportunities to engage and connect with customers right at the point of sale. Smart marketers who are eager to deliver the highest-quality, most compelling mobile website experiences can leverage the following best practices to set their mobile websites apart from those of the competition:
1. Determine Your Customer's Needs
Marketers must first determine how they can best serve their mobile website customers. Options include streamlining conventional Internet sites, delivering a mobile-optimized site, or offering native mobile applications. Companies that use simple Web designs without a lot of large photos or rich media may be able to let mobile users interact with their conventional websites (for more on this option, see sidebar). But that's not often the case today. Unless your site is incredibly simple, you may be better off developing a mobile-optimized version of the site designed for viewing on the small screen.
For instance, mobile websites may be better off offering just a few category selections which take users to the most popular buying areas, or using a lot of links to limit the amount of information that must be loaded per page. Custom mobile apps are also an option, but marketers should consider the demands they put on the customer, such as having to download and install the app. This can create a barrier to entry, because not every customer is willing to devote the time—and the data, for those who don't have an unlimited plan—to download the app in order to access your wares on a mobile device.